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Please find the prologue here, if you're interested in participating in the quest.

>http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4982368/

Good work has been hard to find since the boss went up and died a few weeks ago. Most of the gang wasn’t ready for it, and the complete lack of a leader caused all of you to head off to start a new mercenary crew, duke it out to be top dog, or find pedestrian work.

Not you. You’re not going to be like those other Elin that end up as a baker’s assistant or a florist. Well, you don’t know exactly what other Elins do for work, but you know that those weak-willed twerps would be eaten alive by the real world.

Your stomach growls in protest.

Speaking of eating, got to make some coin to get some food in you. Luckily, an offer for mercenary work has come by via a letter this morning, signed by one of your kind named Elewyn.

A meeting to take place in the “pegasus hutch” at one of the old towers on the eastern side of the city. You don’t know what the hell either of those things are, but it’s up high.

You start the long climb up the stairs.

[1/3]
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>>4991642

Elewyn… You’ve seen her before. Flowing, silver hair almost as long as she is tall. A face that you can already imagine your old boss saying that it’s “blessed by the gods.” Eyes a deep amber, piercing. Prim and poised…

Annoying.

Looked like she’s never fought a battle in her whole life.

Anyway, she was eyeing you up last you were in the guild hall, so it seems that she at least knows a fighter when she sees one. You’re just here for the coin anyway, if she pays you enough you won’t care if she lifts a finger or not.

She’s going to have to pay extra for making you climb up all these stairs. And damn it’s dark and decrepit in here, might fall crack your head open.

You can tell that you’re finally nearing the top as light begins to peak through a broken hatch at the end of the stairwell. You toss open the splintered hatch, kicking up dust as it smacks into the floor above. After clearing your face of that awful dust, you’re able to take in your surroundings.

Birds scatter from the noise you create as you pop through the hatch. They fly toward the city that sprawls clearly before you, as you can see the roofed tops of houses, shops, and even smaller towers. The view mesmerizes you until you hear floor of the top landing creaks terribly as if ready to crack from under your weight. Scattered among the broken planks are piles of rotting hay and other types of decrepit bedding for some animals.
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>>4991643

Yikes, it looks like no one has taken care of this place in years. A person could die up here, and there would be no one to take their rotting corpse away from all the other rot.

Feeling a bit of panic rise up, you reach back and place a firm grip on the handle of your great sword.

“Here.” A voice announces from an unknown location causing you to unsheathe your sword and search.

“Good that you were quick to react, but you need to open your eyes.” The voice continues as you pinpoint its source and turn to point your blade.

A singular Elin sits with her legs pulled to her chest. Her amber eyes watching you half amused, and half piercing. She somehow appeared just a few feet behind the hatch you pulled yourself through. She gives the impression of someone that's seen a lot of shit, but you chalk it up to some type of resting bitch face.

“When did you get there?” You press with your sword fixed right on her small frame.

“I’ve been here since you climbed through that hole.” She replies flatly.

“Uhhh.”

>Double down. No way she's been there the whole time.

>Lower your sword, ask why she brought you here.

>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.

>Write in
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>>4991646
>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.
I checked the prologue, but what's an Elin?
>>
>>4991690


https://todlore.fandom.com/wiki/Elin (For a good summary of the canon)

A race from an MMO that came out in Korea and the states about 10 years ago.

Essentially a race of fae creature created from a nature god that resemble young girls, and gain their power from their connection to nature/their god.

That said, creative liberties will be taken with personalities, setting, and lore. Let me know if I can explain more.
>>
>>4991646
>Double down. No way she's been there the whole time.
>>
>>4991646
>>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.
>>
>>4991690
>>4991807
>>4991860

Writing these votes
>>
>>4991700
oh, so it was an MMO. I was wondering how a 600 year old person could get deleveled so bad that they can't instagib slimes.
>>
>>4991887

"Hmmmm" You express your doubts now only with your sword still raised, hoping that she will crack under intimidation.

She just sits there, staring at you as if waiting for you finish what you have to say. Dust continues to float around, itching your nose. The hustle and bustle of the city is only the faintest hum at this distance, leaving you in an uncomfortable silence.

A floorboard moans under your shifting weight. "Fine! Maybe you were there." You finally crack, but don't relent on pointing your sword at her. "Just tell me why you brought me here."

Much to your continued agitation, she continues to gaze at you like she was watching some kind of theater performance.

She finally breaks eye contact to fluidly stand, wipe off dust from her clothes, and pull out some kind of parchment from a small pouch. While noticing that she doesn't have any type of weapon on her beside some big fancy stick, you startle slightly as her eyes turn back to you.

"Hired work." Despite you following her, she sidesteps your sword with ease, and extends the parchment to you. "I'll need you to travel with me for approximately three days..." She pauses just for a moment. "Ruby."

Must've forgot your name for a moment, whatever. Guard work sounds simple enough. You've been on plenty dull details in your days as a merc. You shift to reach out for the parchment and glance over the details.

One day's escort to undisclosed town. One day within the town, and then the return trip. Combat possible. Exact details upon acceptance of contract.

"Well, shit. That's as simple as you made it sound." You hand the paper back to her and laugh. "If all you wanted was an armed body nearby while you do some sightseeing, you could hire a city guard dropout for way cheaper." You turn back to the open view of the city. "While I am...was a merc, I'm not the kind to that takes advantage of people."

You sigh to yourself. Looks like you'll need to keep looking for good work, this might be a good place to scout out locations.

"Seventy-five silver coins." She calls out behind you, snapping you back to reality.

You jump slightly at the quantity. That's what you would make in five days of good work! Damn, your mind and your stomach are more than tempted. Is she rich?... Must be. Well, if these rich types want to toss their money around, might as well let them toss it your way.

You turn too quickly and your foot loudly kicks over a rusted bucket. "Given my ten years of experience, i-it's a h-humble offer, Elewyn..."

>Graciously accept.

>Press for more coin

>Write in
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>>4991929
>>>Graciously accept.
>>
>>4991925
Deleveled is a good way of putting it, even so I wouldn't draw to many parallels between here and MMO levels. There you'd be able to take basically infinite hits from a dozen low level wolves, but that wouldn't apply here.

That said, there might be additional story factors at play here.
>>
>>4991929
>>Press for more coin
>>
>>4991938
>Graciously accept.

Oh, it's up ! I just noticed. So, what organization are you going with regarding multiple characters ?
>>
>>4991929
>Graciously accept.
>>
>>4991937
>>4991999
>>4991954

The quest will proceed via a handful of different character's perspectives all relating to the same events that are unfolding. Elewyn will still be the primary focus, but this way allows for additional story insight and more characters to manage.

>Graciously accept
Writing
>>
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>>4992091

Another one of the boss's sayings comes to mind; better not look a gift horse in the mouth.

You're not sure if the horse is the gift, or it's giving the gift, but looking into its mouth seems impolite regardless.

You straighten up, and mirror the way she holds herself. "I suppose that I can accept the offer. Seems that you're after quality, and that's what we- I provide! Uhh, anyway. I accept the contract" You give her a salute out of instinct.

Again she looks at your face like she's focused more on it than your response.

"What?" You ask indignantly. "I got eye crust or something?" You rub under your right eye, and find some to your surprise.

This gets the slightest of smirks out of her much to your continued surprise.

"A-anyway, where are we headed?" You press to change the subject. "The hot springs near the ruins of Castanica is where my boss would take us after a long mission." You're already thinking about when you'll take your next relaxing dip. Man, the grilled meat that they whipped up there...

She snaps you out of your day dream with a single word. "Tulufan."

Your mouth snaps open. "That sandy butthole of a town?" Your shoulders slump and you sigh as you think about the town that's hardly more than a desert merchant's hub. Whatever, at least you're being paid well, and as the boss said, not paid to complain. Your clear your throat and regain your composure. "It's a bit extreme if you're after a tan."

Hardly reacting to what you're saying, she walks to the edge of the tower and glances over. "If you're hoping for leisurely activities, you're going to be disappointed." She pauses. "I don't exactly know what you think it is that I do, but this is a proper mission, and I will be fighting along side you"

You scoff loudly at the prospect. "You got a weapon I don't know about? Cause you're not going to hurt much with that stick."

She glances back at you while still leaning over the edge. "I'll explain more on the ground." She pulls the stick off her back. "Meet you down there."

With those words, and a little graceful jump, she disappears from sight, plummeting to the ground.

"Shit!" You call out as you rush to the edge.

She's already near the ground as you watch her point her staff downward, and then gently land onto the hard ground some 80 ft below. She waves at you to come down.

"Uhhh. I'll take the stairs." You shout to her.

[1/2]
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>>4992197

~~~

"You tracked down a slave transport that's bound for across the sea, and you want us to stop it?" You whisper back to Elewyn incredulously.

"I want to free the cargo before they head out." Elewyn clarifies as you walk down the isolated city alley. "Ideally, the fighting with the slavers would be minimal. Sneak in and out in the dead of night, free the cargo, and gather as much information about who they are in the process."

Not at all what you expected, but this isn't out of your line of work. However, you would have a whole squad to back you up.

"And we're supposed to get this done, just the two of us?" You glance around to make sure you're not being tailed like she requested.

She peers around a corner before you exit the alleyway. "There will be to more of us." Satisfied, she nods for you to continue following her. "Before we meet with them, we'll need to pick up all of our disguises. We'll stick out otherwise when we head to Tulafan." She hardly whispers the last few words as the city folk going about their business start to appear.

In a complete change of tone, and with vibrant eyes she turns back to you with a smile. "You think outfits will fit well, Ruby?" She asks cheerfully and loudly.

Your brow furrows deeply. "Uhhh..."

"Maybe some accessories to go along with." She taps her fist into her open palm. "Oh that's right! The three of us had different ideas for outfits, so you're going to have to break the tie, Ruby." She giggles and twirls back to face forward. "It's between student uniforms, maid outfits, and being magician assistants. Which should we do for our play?"

After a pause, she stops walking and stares at you with expectant and friendly eyes. It's kind of making you really uneasy.

>"What the hell has gotten into you?"

>"Student uniforms, I guess."

>"Maid outfits, I guess."

>"Magician assistant outfits, I guess."

>Write in
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>>4992205
>>"Maid outfits, I guess."
>>
>>4992205
>>"Student uniforms, I guess."
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>4992234
>>4992237
The vote window has been open for a couple of hours, so for the sake of getting more updates out, I'll roll to decide the winning choice.
>>4992234
Is 1
>>4992237
Is 2

>Writing
>>
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>>4992475

Like hell that you would ever be caught in a revealing magician assistant outfit. But, you couldn't definitively choose what you'd wear so you went with whatever first came to mind.

"Student uniforms, I guess." You shrug noncommittally.

You're still not sure what's gotten into her all of a sudden, but you choose not to ask.

"Oh, that's my choice!" Elewyn responds cheerfully. "Let's go!"

She tightly grabs your hand, and begins leading you through the crowd. Her path is strange, often doubling back, heading off in random locations, stopping suddenly and then suddenly restarting. Getting jostled around by so many of those annoyingly tall humans makes your head ache. You never understood why they had to be so tall.

"Where the hell are we going?" You ask after being pulled around for what feels like forever. The crowd has thinned out a lot, as you were pulled to an alley in the north of the city. The tall city walls cast these roads in shade even in afternoon, leaving this area a bit of hotspot for seedy characters. The area has a damp and musty feel to it.

She relinquishes your clammy hand just as quickly as she grabbed it in the first place. "We're here." She states flatly and motions to a signboard above a shop entrance. "Not followed."

She's back to normal, you guess?

"A-Aldo's Pah-Pawnbroker?" You squint at the faded sign. "Wouldn't a tailor be better?"

"If we wanted to wait a week for four outfits to be ready." She rifles through her bag to pull out a small pouch, and tosses it your way. "Here's thirty up front. Get yourself ready to head out, and then meet us at the west gate in at noon."

"Us?" You inquire, counting the coins. "You mean the rest of our crew?"

She clips her bag closed. "That's exactly right, so don't be late."

You finish counting all thirty of the coins, and grin. "You're pretty confident that I'm not going to run off with this."

She shakes her head and sighs. "I'm pretty confident that you wouldn't get far...Ruby. I'll be getting the outfits that you requested now." With only that, she turns into the shop leaving you alone in this back alley.

Whatever. You know better than to break a contract after you've accepted it. The boss would rise from his grave and ring your head if you did. You toss the coins up and catch them repeatedly. Where to spend your new found wealth?

>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.

>The plaza bazaar has all sorts of shops. Let's see what you can find there.

>What the hell is a pawnbroker anyway? Head inside.

>Write in
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>>4992635
>>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.
>>
>>4992635
>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.
whatever conspiracies she's worried there are, best to deal with it all without after a full stomach
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>>4992804
>>4992810
Can't fight on an empty stomach.

>Writing
>>
>>4992817

Who knows how long you'll be on the road, you better get some food in you before you stomach hightails it out of your body.

Hmm, you've only ever heard about this guild hall, but you've never been, so it takes you a bit of time to find it. After a bit of searching you come across what you searching for and head in.

Seems that the morning rush for requests has passed already as there are only a handful of drunk deadbeats scattered about.

Gosh, these places are all the exact same.

One of them is chomping away at food that looks halfway decent, so you head to the serving counter to ask for what he's having.

You take a seat at one of the dusty tables and look over your only piece of gear in the meantime.

Your greatsword, Carver, given to you by your boss when you were taken in to his merc company and you had not even a name. Since then, you've made good use of it, and even put a couple of personal touches on it's heavy blade. Even still he's a mean looking beast with a jagged toothed base and razor sharp edge above it. For that reason, you keep him wrapped up in a cloth when you're in town. When he's allowed to run wild he's meant to carve through big bastards, and luckily for you, practically everyone is a big bastard in your eyes.

Sharp and clean, and ready to go for yet another mission.

As you hear the kitchen door open, you stow away Carver back into his cloth

"Yay!" You exclaim as your meal, and a mug of some drink is placed in front of you on the table. You're quick to clear your throat. "I mean, thanks for the grub."

Your server smirks and walks away. You choose to ignore him and focus on your food.

[1/2]
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>>4992858
The first few bites smother your tongue in a pleasant taste. Man it's been too long since you've had decent food. While you scarf down your breakfast with haste, you reach over and take a large gulp of what you thought was water.

A deep bitter flavor washes over all the good food, and you barely manage to gulp it down. "What the hell is this crap?!" You call out to the server who just popped back into the kitchen holding your mug in the air.

He barely pops out of the doorway to see what you're talking about "Ale." He states flatly. "You said that you wanted what that guy was having."

"It tastes awful!" You call back, eliciting some laughs from the other patrons. "Bring me some water!"

"You don't drink it for the taste." He replies as he walks back into the kitchen to fetch your water.

For some reason you expect a voice nearby to say something, but instead an excruciating pain pierces your head, practically blinding you in that moment

"What the..."You're finally able to groan out once the pain begins to recede.

"Are you alright?" The server asks as he places your water nearby.

"I-I'm fine." You wave him away, and push away the ale.

Afterwards, you finish as much of the meal that you can still stomach, wash down with the water, and get up to pay off your meal. You're down a half a silver coin thanks to the ale.

Once your out of the dusty guild hall you begin to feel a bit better. In the distance you hear that the hustle of the town has gotten stronger as the day goes on, all sorts of humans out and about now. You figure that you have the time to hit up one more place before its time to head to the west gate.

>Nah, forget it. Head to the west gate.

>The plaza bazaar is on the way, might as well stop there.

>Double back to the pawnbroker. Might cut it a bit close on time.

>Write in.
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>>4992859
>Stock up on healing and books. May as well pick out something you wouldn't be embarrassed to pretend to study.
>>
>>4992859
>>The plaza bazaar is on the way, might as well stop there.
>>
>>4992905
>>4992987
These two can be choices can be synthesized.

>Writing
>>
>>4993021
Just caught up after reading through the prologue and this thread. Really interested to see where this goes, QM.
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>>4993065
I'm very glad to have your interest, and I hope you have the opportunity to participate as well


>>4993021

The bazaar is on way anyway, and you feel the need to clear your head for some reason. You give your coin pouch a good toss and catch, and then head off.

The western plaza is actually the less busy of the two main plazas in the city, but with the crowds passing by shoulder to should you wouldn't have ever guessed. Merchants shout through all the noise, trying to attract customers to their stalls and storefronts which number in the dozens. Boss told you once that the money that floats around here in one day is way more than any merc would make in their life.

You make sure to keep a tight grip around your coin, and make through the crowd getting jostled around an annoying amount. First to catch your eye is a rather neat storefront selling all sorts of potions, balms, and ointments.

"A-adventurer's Apoth...Apothalch-chemy" You barely finish sounding out the writing on the storefront sign when the door flings open.

"That's exactly right, young customer!" A boisterous voice shouts above you before actually being directed at you. A very excited young woman smiles widely. "Welcome to the Adventurer's Apothalchemy. Where medicine and magic come together to help you!" Her voice easily cuts through the roar of the bazaar.

Damn, she's loud. You'd never think by looking at her.

"What is an apothal-" You barely have the chance to ask.

"I'm so glad you asked, so allow me to show you!" She pulls you into the store with unexpected force. "My name is Emma, and only at our store have the apothecaries unlocked the secrets of the ancient alchemists to synthesize better medicine at more affordable prices than our competitors."

"Alchemist?" You stare at her for clarification.

"Ahh, yes." She dusts off the front of her dress and bows quickly. "Apologies for not taking the time to explain." She pulls a book out of somewhere and almost instantly flips to the page that she was looking for. "The alchemists of old imbued their magic with a well designed catalyst, and high quality ingredients to synthesize concoctions that you could hardly even begin to imagine. Some to make you taller!..." She stands at attention for just an instant. "Some to make you more voluptuous." She winks as she traces generous curves around her body. "Some to tame even the most wild of beasts, and some say some to even raise the dead..." She whispers the last few words as she leans in close.

"BUT!" She shouts causing you to startle. "Their magic is gone. Maybe it wasn't ever there to begin with. But!" She wags her finger. "We've, and only we, have discovered the secrets of their catalysts. So, healing potions, antidotes, virility potions, hair growth potions. We've got whatever you could need!" She pulls in close yet again. "I suppose we can start with healing potions, as you don't seem like the type to be poisoned, sexually impotent, or balding. Right?"

[1/2]
>>
>>4993079

W-what the hell are you even saying?" You demand while feeling your ears turn hot.

"One? Two? If you buy a dozen you get one for free!" She pulls a crate of healing potions from somewhere. "That's an apothecary's dozen in case you didn't know."

At this point, you very much regret coming into here. "How much for two then?" You ask impatiently.

"That's on sale today actually! Two for two silver coins." She emphasizes two with her fingers wildly. "But, if you also buy-"

"Just the two!" You hold up your hands to stop her. "I just want the two."

She smiles without losing a beat. "Excellent choice."

~

You feel terribly winded by the time you walk out of there. Humans are weird sometimes. While you were paying she mentioned that her store would pay generously for any old tomes on potion making that you might come across in your travels. You don't really get what the fuss is about some dusty old books, but you've never really given them a chance. Maybe one to read on the road won't be so bad? The boss always had some laying around.

Knowing that time is short, you quickly glance around for your target, and find an unassuming stand with a number of books stacked high. The merchant gazes at you, as you return a hesitant stare back fearful to activate him like you did with Sarah the apotheclem...whatever.

He lazily motions for you to take a look at his stock, which conveniently has the prices labeled on each book. Most look horribly boring, but a few catch your eye.

>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?

>"Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.

>"The Ignoble, Lascivious, and Tragic Romances of Princess Priscilla III" Twelve silver coins. Uh...you'd probably want to read this one in private.

Ruby currently has 27.5 silver coins.
>>
>>4993083

Forgot to add the option:

>Pass on all of them
>>
>>4993083
>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?
>>
>>4993083
>>"Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.
Based on her interactions with the signage so far, I take it Ruby isn't exactly illiterate, but isn't a very strong reader either? Is there anything with more pictures and less words?
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>>4993083
>>>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?
>>
>>4993104
Good on you for catching that detail. The first two books are directed toward young readers, so they're just within her reading level. The third is a bit beyond it, but interest can serve to fill in the gaps in knowledge.
>>
I'm a bit more sleepy than usual at this time, so I'm going to pick this up tomorrow.

The vote will stay open, so feel free to choose if you haven't done so already.

Also, in the meantime. Here are the current combat rules for the quest:

https://pastebin.com/CwLtdXZ0

Character sheets will be forthcoming. Any questions or constructive comments will be addressed so go ahead and post them if you'd like.
>>
>>4993133
Link doesn't work, might still be private
>>
>>4993137
Hmm, it was on unlisted before, so I'm not sure why it wasn't working. I've switched it to public. Please let me know if it's still not working.
>>
>>4993141
weird. It worked when I switched to a different browser. Maybe some new interactions between pastebin and adblockers
>>
>>4993133
Not much to say about mechanics. I'm more interested in the particular choices we can make, which looks like is going to wait for magic or the martial equivalent.

Not sure how you're going to tackle 4 equipment slots for multiple members when it comes the shopping, though. That could take a while.
>>
>>4993083
>Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Picking up again!

>>4993151
The open equipment slots will be taken care of gradually, and some are already filled with equipment such as weapons. Shopping for equipment will have to be balanced with other costs that may occur.

We're at a tie, so rolling for the choice

>>4993086
>>4993106
Will be 1

>>4993104
>>4993207
Will be 2

Writing the winner
>>
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>>4993790
You eventually reach out for the newer looking "Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends" as the merchant perks to attention.

"That's a new one that's been popular around the city." He nods toward the book in your hands. "Each copy that I get has been selling out by the end of the day."

Books can be popular? Maybe this is a good start to see what the fuss is all about.

"I-I'll take it then." You begin to reach for your coin pouch and count out the necessary coin.

He motions for you to hand the book to him as he pulls out a piece of parchment to wrap it. "Haven't had the chance to read it myself. My backlog is way too big as is."

Backlog? You lean to look toward his back, which appears normal for a human.

Once he finishes the wrapping, he takes the coin, and then hands you the book. "Let me know if it's worth the read." He smiles gently.

"What do you mean?" You ask as you tuck the book under your arm.

Without hesitation he responds. "When you finish reading it, come back here and tell me what you thought about it. I'll give you a discount on your next book if you do." He taps the other books that you were considering.

So humans talk about the books they read too? The boss never seemed to do so, and no one else in your former gang ever seemed to pick up a book other than to chuck it at someone.

"Okay..." You respond, not sure what else to say.

He seems pretty satisfied with that. After a small nod, he returns to the book that he was reading before you arrived.

You don't know why he seems so confident that you'll finish the whole thing without getting bored.

Wait. Crap, you better get going! Damn humans and their chit-chat...

~

The west gate is busy, not with shops and shoppers, but with huge horse-drawn carriages kicking up clouds of dust and dirt. Piles of cargo lay by the sides of the roads as exasperated traders wait for the city guard to give them clearance to come or go.

As you arrive at the west gate, breathing heavily, you spot your target nearby what appears to be a merchant caravan off to the side of the main road, and with two other Elin in tow. The three of them are already sporting matching white blazers with dark skirts. From a distance they appear to be nothing more than young girls from some prissy academy.

Elewyn is the first to notice you as you approach. "Gosh, Ruby! They would've left without us, you know?" Her voice shouting with that weird brightness once again, her piercing eyes betraying that voice.

"Ah, oh...ah! So this is Ruby?" A cheerful, flaxen-haired of your kind, with a kind smile giggles to herself. "Right? Wait yeah, you said so." She pauses in thought, eyes gazing upward. "Eh? Oh right!" Another laugh. " I'm Aloé. It's very nice to meet you." She gives you a deep bow.

Her laugh and smile are disarming as the cheerfulness seems the real deal with her.

[1/3]
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>>4994028


You barely have time to return her bow when the other approaches you. Her deep indigo eyes gaze deeply at your own. Despite her being dressed in a student uniform she has a strange, peaceful aura to her. Your mind begins to swim in the deep azure of her gaze when she finally snaps you back to reality. "Tell me one thing..." Her voice like fine silk.

You can't help but stay stuck in her gaze.

"Why not maid outfits?" Her brow furrows. "Are they not popular? Are they not enchanting to you as well? Surely you can feel the deep yearning of your nature within you to wear something so delicate yet refined? Why deny that calling?"

"Wha?" You have trouble arguing with her. "I guess I picked it on a whim. I didn't really care-"

"A whim?" She looks on the verge of tears which somehow makes her all the more memorizing. She turns to Elewyn. "Surely you could've let her know my desire to-"

"That's quite enough, Philia." Elewyn easily brushes her aside and hands you a student uniform. "Here, this is yours, Ruby." She smirks as she points to a nearby alley. "Now, go change."

You're thankful for her interrupting, but not at all thankful for her suggesting you change in some dusty alley. You begin to protest when a lumbering human approaches suddenly.

[2/3]
>>
>>4994033

Already scowling as he approaches, he turns to Elewyn. "Four subhumans... You didn't say anything about their being four of you."

He seems kinda familiar...

Elewyn replies without hesitation. "No one asked. We paid for our fare already, so you can leave us alone."

"You're awfully uppity for someone that needs passage in our caravan." He looms over her easily, and begins to take in you three. "I'm not the only one that here feels this way, and the way I see it..."

Ah! Now you recall! A few years back your boss spotted his caravan being mugged by a group of bandits. Those bandits were mostly non-humans from what you recall. You guys stepped in, and kept him from losing his miserable life. He was sobbing and had pissed himself at the time. So, he owes you, well, at least he owes your former gang.

"What the fuck are you looking at, you rat?" He notices your gaze.

No, he didn't just call you a rat. No. He. Did. Not.

You finger begin to itch to reach back for Carver.

Elewyn nods at Aloé who quickly places a hand on your shoulder and begins leading you away. "Cmon, Ruby I'll help you get changed." She whispers.

>"I'm staring at you, you stinking coward!" Get him to shut up by exposing him.

>"Ugh, fine!" Let Elewyn handle it.

>Write in
>>
>>4994036
>>"I'm staring at you, you stinking coward!" Get him to shut up by exposing him.
>>
>>4994036
>>"Ugh, fine!" Let Elewyn handle it.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Would've preferred not to roll for this choice, but for the sake of progress, I will.

>>4994099
Is 1
>>4994248
Is 2

Writing the winner
>>
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>>4994529

You're just the hired merc, you're just the hired merc...

"Ugh, fine!" You huff and turn from the pig-headed human and head off with Aloé.

She squeezes your shoulder reassuringly. "He's an idiot. I would've liked to tell him off myself, but Ell would handle the situation the best."

The two of you head for a nearby alley with several highly stacked crates. Aloé adjusts nearby boxes for added privacy. "There you go." She dusts her hands. "I'll keep watch."

"Ugh..." You complain quietly as you hand off Carver and your book for her to hold, and you begin undressing from your usual outfit.

"It's been so long since I've worn such a thing." Your companion says with an airy laugh while holding the side of her skirt. "I'm glad to have the chance again."

You take in how the outfit looks on her, and you wouldn't ever guess that she wasn't wearing that thing everyday with how natural she seems.

She pauses as she watches you try to make sense of your own skirt. "Did you not attend the academy?"

Ahh, crap. This again.

The words are a bit hard to find. "I don't know?" You grunt as you adjust the skirt. "I don't think so anyway. I've never been good with numbers or letters. That being how it is, I would've had to cheat to keep from dropping out."

She doesn't try to hide her perplexed expression. "Huh? Wait. Am I missing something?" She scratches her cheek lightly. "Sometimes I need things to be explained to me twice."

"No. That's not it." You look down as you kick your feet. "Uhh.. I don't really like to...I mean." You sigh and shuffle a bit more. "I don't remember-"

"Tell me more about it when you feel like." She quick to say and nods. "Ah, and maybe when you're not half undressed."

Oh, right.

~

[1/2]
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>>4994640

The caravan finally gets clearance to leave, and moves into position. Elewyn leads your student group to the back of the trade caravan where a huge cart packed with crates lies. "In order to keep us from having to pay extra fees, this is where we'll be for the trip."

Not that you're not used to being uncomfortable during travel, but looks like you'll have to squeeze yourselves wherever you can with how many crates are in there.

"Bringing up the rear will keep anyone from watching us with their ears" Philia nods to herself knowingly.

What?

"My thoughts exactly." Elewyn replies as she already begins to hoist herself into the back of the cart.

With Carver and your other belongings in tow, you're about to do the same when her open hand reaches out to you. Her amber eyes already gazing at you impatiently when you meet them. You're caught off guard, but you eventually reach for her hand. Her delicate hand helps pull you into the cart in one smooth motion. She does the same for Aloé and Philia, and the four of you settle uncomfortably into whatever space you can find.

After a few more minutes of the humans shouting at one another, your caravan finally sets off. The stone buildings and high walls of the city no longer surround you. Instead, the open air of the farmlands provides a cool, lazy breeze as your caravan rolls down the paved road. The hilly open land stretches for miles.

"It will take about six hours for us to reach Chebika." Elewyn announces to the three of you. "Once we get passed the checkpoint there, we can head off on our own to Tulafan."

Which means hoofing it for the rest of the way. Oh well, better enjoy the free ride while it lasts, and kill some time.

>You got that book, don't 'cha?

>Chat up Aloé, she seems easy to talk to.

>Chat up Philia, best to get to know everyone here.

>Chat up Elewyn, learn a bit more about the mission, maybe.

>Write in
>>
>>4994642
>>You got that book, don't 'cha?
She 'doesn't know' if she attended school or not? Does Ruby have amnesia?
>>
>>4994664
Her words certainly suggest her having trouble remembering things. Perhaps, you could try to explore that thought in the future?
>>
>>4994642
>You got that book, don't 'cha?
Yeah not being sure is a bit off.
>>
>>4994642
>You got that book, don't 'cha?
>>
Stopping here for tonight, since I got work in the morning. We'll keep the vote open.

Thankfully, I should be able be able to post in my downtime at work, so there will be at least one update during the daytime tomorrow.

The character sheets are actively being made, I'm just taking a bit of extra time to consider properly balanced stats and skills. Elewyn's and Ruby's sheets will be the first to be linked (before any combat) since you've taken control of both of them so far.

I'll probably switch over to having everything in google docs as the amount of information on the combat rules and character sheets are just easier to digest there.

I really appreciate the participation thus far, and the attention paid toward the smaller details. Here's hoping we can continue to make good progress throughout this upcoming week
>>
>>4994664
>>4994676
>>4994684
Writing
>>
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>>4995046

You did buy the book after all, this seems like as good time as any to start it.

Finding a nook where you can kind of sit and lean against the crates, you peel off the parchment, position the book how you recall your boss would always one, and then crack it open. Immediately, you're overwhelmed by the amount of words in one place, but push through.

You start with the words that are the biggest on the first page. "D-death of the Gods. My-MYth and Le...gends." You mouth the words aloud.

Wait a sec, you already read that before. Why is it here again? You flip the page in annoyance..

>"As the legends go, the lands as far as they may stretch, the seas as deep as they are, and the skies however high they may reach, all of this world was the dominion of the gods. Such was the reach of their power, and nothing was out of their reach. They tended to their domain as the covetous tend to their land, and they tended to us as farmers tend to their cattle. But the one thing they could not contend with was each other. This world was too small for all of their designs, and envy and frustration eventually caused them to turn their terrifying weapons on each other."

The Boss said that infighting is how most merc units go out. Makes sense that they did each other in.

You can't help but wonder what kind of weapons they could have.

>"Myth states that upon creation of this world the twelve original gods were dreamt into existence at the same instant, all opposed in nature as light and dark, cold and hot, empty and filled. However it is from their disparity with one another that all new existence is said to originate. Thus their nature was an endless cycle of creation and destruction, one could never gain the upper hand so long as their opposite existed. They then turned toward their children, and the children of their children to fight their battles for them. Emboldened them as champions and heroes, and vilified their cousins as monsters and fiends, the gods set their soldiers loose with legendary weapons. Dragons and demons and their terrible hellfire. Creatures of the deep that could swallow ships whole. For eons they fought, shattering mountains, scorching forests and cities, and boiling oceans, much in the same way as their parents, balanced in eternal conflict. For eons they acted in this farce, this comedy, until finally something changed the balance."

You flip the page, engrossed, losing track of time and the space around you. Quite content, you imagine these awesome battles in all their glory.

[1/2]
>>
>>4995367

>"If you are wondering what this upsetting force may be, you need not look any further than yourself. You, us, us humans came about. We were the driving force to end the eternal conflict, and the weapons and land left behind are our inheritance. We take it upon ourselves to better the world that the gods and their creations ran amok. Because it is in our nature to build, innovate, and learn. They, those creations that still dwell in these lands, are opposed to us, and our noble goals. Find in these pages stories of our triumphs, of desperate battles to cast off the yoke of the gods and come into our own. Find legends of terrifying weapons, and where they may lie today. Most of all, learn of the great potential that lies in all of us, and what we can hope to accomplish once we are free from those that noble spirit does not exist within."

Oh.

After much effort, you finally make it through the opening pages. You're not quite sure what you feel, but your chest and stomach ache a bit. Would they put something in a book that's not true? Then again, some of the words were new to you, so maybe you're just reading it wrong? It would be pretty embarrassing to ask one of the others to explain the words to you.

Somehow you can't help but think of that merchant that called you a rat...

>Ah, whatever. Suck it up for now.

>Ask Aloé to explain what you didn't understand.

>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.

>Ask Philia to explain what you didn't understand.

>Write in.
>>
>>4995371
>>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
What a model of restraint, it took the author a whole 3 paragraphs before they started race-wanking.
>>
>>4995432
Let's assume that the general feeling of those paragraphs went on for several opening pages, because I'm not prepared to write a full length book within a quest.
>>
>>4995371
>>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
>>
>>4995432
>>4995465
Writing

Also!
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

It should work for anyone with the link, but let me know if you run into any issues.
>>
>>4995622
And here i thought it's from TERA Online. Or was it?
>>
>>4995646
The quest is indeed based off the game for the most part. The very fast paced mechanics of the game don't lend themselves well to a direct translation into a quest format, so I've simplified them significantly.

Let me know if you'd like me to answer any other questions
>>
>>4995655
oh nothing, it's just that its been too long since i played the game. I once an Elin Lancer and trolling people in Castle Siege by pushing them away from ladders when they get up.

Killian Server (I dunno if it exist now)
>>
>>4995664

It's been a few years for me as well, but I thought that I'd like to revisit the setting. PVP was always solid and very competitive. I can remember hoping not to be killed climbing those ladders as well. Most servers, including the one that I played on (Tempest Reach) were merged over the years.

If you'd like, I hope that you take the chance to participate here
>>
>>4995669
Sure, i forgot the main lore of TERA Online especially the Elin lore but i can only remember bits and pieces of the Vampire quest line, Alemantheia region, and the Ork invasion.
>>
>>4995371
>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
how old is Ruby again?
>>
>>4995672
I've taken plenty of liberties with the lore, so don't worry about remembering all of it.

>>4995622
>>4995622

Screw this, you probably need some help from someone that actually understands books. You don't really know the other three well, but you get the feeling that Elewyn would be able to help you. All you need is the courag-

You're not afraid.

Taking a moment to stretch your sore limbs after scooching out of your nook, you notice that the scenery around you has changed significantly. The sowed fields of wheat and other crops have now given way to more untamed expanses of terrain. Only the tallest towers are still visible above the rolling hills.

You squeeze your way through the cramped cart until you find your target who's seems to have her hands filled looking through a number of parchments. As she sits in such a small space in her uniform, you find it a bit easier to approach as she just looks so harmless. However, she notices almost immediately that you're there, and looks at you expectantly with her normal piercing gaze.

Aww crap.

"There's uh..." You point to the book in your hand. "Umm, some stuff in here that was a bit, uhh, confusing..." She's not making this easy by just looking at you. "I was hoping that you could help me understand it." You trail off the last few words.

Elewyn gazes at you long enough to make you start wanting to leave, but in that moment she reaches out her hand. "Hand it here, then."

You comply and watch as she starts the book. "Just the first few pages, until it does that big break."

In that moment, when her hard gaze is directed at the book and not at you, you see things that maybe you wouldn't otherwise. Long strands of soft hair that she has yet to pull away from her face, the occasional slight twitch in her animal ears as they remain constantly aware, and for very small moments in time flashes of amusement and also annoyance. You lose track of time.

[1/3]
>>
>>4995782
I can tell you that Ruby isn't going to know that.

>>4995792

"Is this what they're writing these days?" She asks, snapping you back to reality. She closes her eyes for a moment to think. "Have you ever met someone that claimed to be a great fighter when in reality they weren't?" She opens her eyes again near the end of her question.

You think back to several examples of that happening. "Yeah, loads of times. They usually ended up dead or deserting."

"But they said otherwise." She follows. "They said that because it made them appear better, braver, stronger. The said these things so that you would think that they were better, braver, or stronger than they actually were."

You nod in agreement. "That's true, but most of the time when they yak like that, you know it's bullshit. You just know, ya know?"

"Exactly." She replies, and is quiet for another moment. "People can write words in the same manner. If they have even the slightest bit of talent they can write books such that more and more people will read those words."

You sit down without really noticing. "But wouldn't it be obvious that they're lying? Why would lots of people take the time to read it if it's bullshit?"

She smirks slightly. "Because just as much as people lie to others, they lie to themselves." She flips the book over. "And as much as people lie, people want to be lied to."

"Huh..." You're not sure what to say to that.

"Here." She leans and places the book back in your lap. "I won't tell you any more about what to think about it, but read it again while remembering those people who lied about being a good fighter. You could probably use the practice anyway."

Ugh, you recall reading the sign to the pawnbroker in front of her. You adjust yourself into a more comfortable position and comply by reading the words quietly near her.

~
>>
>>4995804

You sigh at the red-headed mess that's currently drooling on your leg. Not long after Ruby resumed reading that propaganda did she fall asleep. As much as you'd like to get up and check where you are, you're quite pinned down. However, based off the general time that has passed, you say that you're just over halfway there.

The details of the mission pass through your mind again. Slave trading was once completely outlawed, but in the past century it has worked its way to being tacitly decriminalized.

So long as what you're trading isn't human.

Most slaves traded in this part of the continent are Amani bound for mines in Ostgarath. However, taking an outbound shipment to Tulufan implies that they want to take them across the sea. Not much purpose taking an Amani across the sea, as what remains of their former strength is concentrated over there. Castanic pleasure slaves are the next biggest trade, but they don't take well to captivity at all. Your sources have only a relatively small retinue accompanying the slave baron, which would be unwise with such cargo.

You look around at the highly stacked crates you four have squeezed yourselves between and appreciate the irony.

You know what the slave traders are carrying with them.

Philia slides into view from behind a crate. "A moment, Elewyn?" She looks down at the sleeping figure shackling you.

"Don't worry about her." You respond quietly with a wave of your hand. "It will be very obvious if she wakes. But we can make it quick."

She nods in acceptance and settles across from you, and sighs with much emotion. "The birds carry songs of trouble."

You shake your head. "It's been a long time since I could make out what they were saying. Enlighten me."

"A new checkpoint ahead." Her ears twitch as her sage eyes close. "An uncouth set of fellows inspecting all those headed into the area. They seem quite keen on knowing whose approaching Chebika and by extension, Tulufan."

You sigh quietly. "At least this tells me my information was likely correct. The circumstances sure seem to point that way."

They'll have the only safe road into the area blocked off. If you decide to stay with the caravan until you reach the outskirts of Chebika, you will absolutely have convince these new guards that you four are just simple students or risk ruining your mission entirely. Otherwise, if the four of you decide to sneak off, you'll have to pass through the wildlands surrounding Chebika, aptly named Basilisk Crag.

The choice is on your shoulders.

>Stick with the caravan the whole way.

>Sneak off before you reach the checkpoint and head through Basilisk Crag.

>Write in.
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
it'll be suspicious if the caravan mentions a bunch of students getting off in the middle of nowhere
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.

>>4995829
It'd probably also put behind on time anyways, if we spend too long fighting our way through the wilderness the slavers might be gone by the time we arrive.
>>
>>4995815
>>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
I don't suppose we have illusion magic, do we ? The ears are going to be a problem if we don't. But push come to shove, better fight humans over basilisks, though only as a last resort.
>>
>>4995864
No illusion magic, but there are other simpler ways to hide those ears that you will have at your disposal.

>>4995829
>>4995856
>>4995863

Thank you for the votes so far, and for the commentary behind your vote choices. I would normally try to squeeze one more update in, but I got to be up early for an eye appointment.

If you haven't done so, check out Elewyn's and Ruby's character sheets, along with the combat rules (now in a more easily read google doc) as there's a very good chance they will be used soon.

(Character sheets)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

(Combat Rules)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1peKn2-vZzeDmAXhy_ZlifFA9nOMlaEs3PK7hgKSel3M/edit?usp=sharing
>>
>>4995815
I was gonna suggest sneaking away but >>4995829 made a good point so staying with the caravan it is, but take the time to make sure everyone has a decent cover story in case you're questioned.

Also what does LP stand for on the characters sheets?
>>
>>4995958
And the combat rules explained LP so no need for that anymore.
>>
>>4995829
>>4995856
>>4995863
>>4995864

Picking up again, and writing
>>
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>>4996542

You whisper to Aloé about the upcoming checkpoint, and your plans to remain with the caravan through it. To her credit, she remains unfazed about the news.

"Hmm, as much as I'd like to give the whole lot some royal guard justice..." She punches the air for emphasis. "There's a time and place for everything, right~?" She looks to both you and Philia for approval. "Eh? Did I get that phrase wrong again?"

For a moment, you're distracted by her rapidly twitching animal ears. "No, you're fine. Except that we ought to cover all of these up." You emphasize by pointing toward your own, before heading back through the tight crates to retrieve the last parts of your disguises. You return with four dark berets in your arms. "This is why I suggested the student uniform." You say as you pass one of the berets to Philia.

She crosses her arms and pouts. "Don't disparage my vision any more than you already have. Surely, the maid outfits would have worked!"

"Perhaps if you actually were willing to wear a bonnet along with it." You add, adjusting the beret over your animal ears.

"That is not part of [i]my[/i] vision." She begrudgingly fits the beret over her animal ears, and sighs. "I suppose it can't be helped, but it's lamentable that we now need to hide who we are."

"Isn't that because this is a covert mission?" Aloé asks after she finishes placing the beret on her head.

Philia turns to her and adjusts the beret so that it fits better over Aloé's ears. "Not quite what I meant, young one."

"Eh??" Aloé goes wide eyed. "Aren't we going to sneak in there to free the captured before they get sold off?"
>>
>>4996650

"That's exactly what we're going to do." You raise your eyebrows at Philia to let her know not to confuse Aloé. "First we need to get through this checkpoint, and since they’re going to be on their guard, that means we need to go over our cover story." You pull out the sheets of folded parchment that you were working on at the beginning of your journey and hand them to the other two. "We're on a field study for our natural science course, under an Instructor Barrow." You turn to Aloé, who nods affirmatively while unfolding the parchment. "These are our permission forms from the Velika Academy. We will be there for two days to collect mycological samples of the local caves in the vicinity north of Tulufan, which are indeed jointly owned by various academies."

Aloé repeats the information back to you to the letter. She's never incorrect with information as important as this, despite what she may think.

“My, my, you are an artist!” Philia examines her form. “This penmanship is a stellar representation of tired academic who could hardly be bothered to fill out the form.” Her azure gaze turns back to you. “Do go on.”

"We met about two months ago because we all live in the same dormitory, under the care of a Mistress Addams. We're all without siblings, except for Philia, who has a younger brother who visits often." She claps lightly at you adding the flair of detail she requested. "If they happen to ask you any other questions about yourself, answer how you see fit. If they happen to ask about one of us, say that you're not sure. To them, you’re nothing more than a young girl. So, overall..." You straighten out your blouse and skirt. "Act as if you're actually afraid of them."

“Got it!” Aloé beams at you. “Wait, uhhh. Ah! Shouldn’t we wake Ruby to tell her all of this too?”

Initially, your plan was to leave her sleeping in the cart just for this checkpoint, and say as much if anyone else asks about your fourth companion. Once through, you can more easily coach her on what you went over with Aloé and Philia. It’s getting past what are likely to be wary guards which will require a good bit of acting. Given what you’ve seen so far, your red-headed guard doesn’t seem to take to all that well. But, you’d run the risk of her being caught by surprise if they decide to question her as well.

>Cover her animal ears with a beret, and let her continue sleeping.

>Wake her and go over the cover story.

>Wake her, tell her the cover story, but have her pretend to sleep through the checkpoint.

>Write in.
>>
>>4996655
>Wake her and go over the cover story.
>Let her decide if she wants to pretend to stay asleep or not.

If I remember right Elewyn could use stupor to put someone to sleep in rhe first thread, we could potentially do that to make the sleeping cover story more convincing. We could also try to help Ruby sell the school girl angle by pretending to (or maybe actually in her case) help her with her reading/writing if she comes under scrutiny.
>>
>>4996709
Support
>>
>>4996709
You are absolutely correct that Elewyn has spell that induces a stupor state. Just for future reference, if cast on an ally it will still render them quite unconscious rather than simply asleep.
>>
>>4996655
>>Wake her and go over the cover story.
>>
>>4996655
support >>4996709
>>
>>4996709
>>4996789
>>4996819
>>4996824

Getting Ruby in on the plan
>Writing
>>
>>4996848

Thinking on your options, it would be too much of a risk to completely leave her in the dark.

You nod in assent. "Alright, we'll wake her, and try to break down the plan as simply as possible."

The three of you squeeze back to find your red-headed companion sprawled out as much as she can, mouth agape, and very much still asleep.

Aloé gently shakes her shoulder. "Ruby~ Ruby...Time to get up sleepy-head."

After a moment of fussing, she suddenly bolts up into a sitting position while slurping up the drool that was making its way out the side of her mouth. "Ehuhgh huh?!" Her hair veers off in numerous directions, her uniform twisted to reveal one of her shoulders, and she then wipes her mouth with her sleeve. "We there?" Her hands settle between her thighs as she wobbles unsteadily. She stares at the three of you vacantly.

"Truly a lovely world, with truly lovely sights." Philia murmurs quietly.

~

You finish taking a turn to explain the plan after Aloé first attempted it. Slight consternation appears on your red-headed companions face as she mouths all the details to over to herself. Her expression suddenly brightens after a few moments. "What if we just take them all out? That way there's no one left to tell the slavers!"

You cross your arms. "Then, what do you suppose we would have to do with all of these merchants to keep them from spreading word that all of those guards were killed?"

"Kill them too...Ahh..." Her excitement shot down as quickly as her plan. "Nevermind..."

You sigh quietly as you try to think of solution to all of this. Shouting from the front of the caravan is followed by an abrupt stop, shaking the four of you around. "Alright, Ruby." You grab her by the shoulders as you're forced into a decision, and stare directly at her. "We're out of time, so now you have to choose. Pretend you're asleep, or if you think you've got the details sorted you come out there with us."

After some mental deliberation, she leans back onto the floor of the large cart, and curls into a more comfortable position. "Boss said to always play to your strengths." She finally answers with her eyes closed.

[1/3]
>>
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>>4997007

Well, you suppose that's settled. The sky over the arid expanse around you has begun to darken and take on an orange color as evening approaches. You lean out of the cart to watch several guards getting off horses, followed by them dispersing to question everyone in the caravan. You thankfully paid for that loudmouthed human to be assigned elsewhere. You sigh again. Running these missions sure does exhaust a lot of coin.

Finally your turn has arrived, three armored guards casually saunter toward the final cart. You look back to the corner where your companion feigns sleep.

"Philia places her hand on your shoulder. "I'll remain with our exquisite sleeper, and make sure no one looks where out weapons are stowed away. You can tell them I've been enduring a spell of nausea."

Given the number of guards, it should be fine. You nod to her in agreement. "Just remember, simpler words."

She winks at you cheekily. "Kay."

~

"Well, well, well. Looks like they were telling the truth." The leader of the three leans back. "Cute ones to boot. You two, try to be a gentleman for a change." He guffaws with his other guards, and then beckons you and Aloé with his gloved hand.

"Cmon down now, we won't hurt ya'." He laughs to himself.

Taking a measured moment before you grab the side of the cart, you clamber off, and drop off making sure to let your knees buckle under you as you do. Aloé follows with a much more playful hop. You pull yourself up, and approach the guardsmen while keeping your eyes on your feet.

"We're here on a field study, sir." You explain with a quiet voice while extending your fabricated permission slip.

"I can barely here you, girl." He scolds not yet taking your paper. "Look up at me."

Another moment, then you comply, locking your eyes with him.

He's quiet for longer than you would've anticipated, but eventually reaches for your paper, only glancing at it for a few moments. "My...Aren't you a sight for sore eyes." He turns to Aloé. "Oh, and you too, young lady. Dontcha worry." He turns back to his two companions. "And you two were complaining about having to come all the way back here. They had their best stuff back here!" They hoot and laugh among themselves before settling down again. "But, I heard there were four of ya. Where're friends?"

"They're not feeling well from all the travel so they're inside resting." Aloé beams shyly at the guard.

The lead guard places his hands on his hips. "Oh, that is a shame." He turns back to one of his lackeys. "Go in there and check it out. And for fucks sake, if you don't mind yourself I'll stomp your head in."

With an annoyed glance his companion climbs into the cart, and with much effort squeezes his way inside.

"You." He speaks to his remaining guard. "Talk to this doll over here." He smirks at Aloé. "This one can actually be polite without threats." He whispers loudly. He faces you, with a wide toothy smile. "I'll take care of you."

[2/3]
>>
Computer crashed, and I couldn't recover the last update. So, writing again....damn it.
>>
>>4997036
notepad++ is your friend
>>
>>4997036
RIP bro.

>>4997048
Google Docs is also an option
>>
>>4997010
>>4997062
Thanks for the suggestions. It's long overdue that I switch to a word processor with a reliable autosave.


~

After an extensive line of questioning who you are and what business you have in Tulufan, the guard seems quite relaxed, and seems to greatly enjoy the act you're playing.

He sighs heavily while scratching his facial scruff. "You know. It's damn shame that this how we have to get on with such lovely girls." He motions to the long line of carts behind him. "Questioning these old farts all day leaves us a little on edge you know? A little wound up..."His hand comes to rest on his codpiece, and the two of you stand in silence for a moment.

This isn't entirely unexpected, you only hope that your two companions inside the cart aren't having to deal with the same.... Thankfully Philia is with her.

"I imagine wherever they have you staying is going to be some rat's nest that won't do the four of you any good." He finally continues. "After all that traveling you deserve to unwind as well." He rests his gloved hand on your shoulder. "I wouldn't normally do this, but you seem like a smart girl that can keep a secret. I feel like I can trust you." He glances around to make sure he's out of earshot. "The three of us been sneaking into our bosses hideout seeing as they're out of town and all. It's where they do all their business so they got the good stuff there."

Both set of your ears perk up at his mention of the slaver's hideout.

"Good food, drinks, baths...comfy beds." He's squeezing now both himself and you. "You come all this way, just the four of you, no one here knows you, and that's a good thing! Means you can do whatever you want, even be as bad as you want. Drink alcohol, stay up late...I swear you won't get into any trouble. I bet you're tired of being good all the time." He finally moves away from you, and crosses one arm across his chest. "You come with us, you'll have fun. I promise. After that, we'll get you to that cave, and hell, I'll do whatever you need in there. You'll be in control...After that, all you get to head back home with the best stories that your other friends will be dying to here. Honestly, you won't get a chance like this again."

His last statement speaks volumes if he's telling the truth. As much as this is a rescue mission, this is also an information gathering mission. Finding the slaver's hideout could mean vital information about who's buying the captured Elins, and where they're planning on taking them you may not get otherwise. That is if there's any truth to what he's saying. Who knows what he could be leading you into, and you're not the only one involved. However, going alone is another option, not without it's obvious risks, however.

>Shyly, but definitively reject his offer.

>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.

>Tell him you'll try to get the others to come with you as well.

>Write in.
>>
>>4997074
>>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
go for it
>>
>>4997074
>>Shyly, but definitively reject his offer.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
Good to have confirmation that the shipment is Elins.
Also, I sense potential castration in our future. How old does Ewelyn look, anyway ?
>>
Wrapping up here for tonight, guys. Please feel free to vote if you haven't already.

Now that the story is starting to take off more, it's pretty interesting to see where you guys want to take it. I'll keep trying to give you guys at least a few updates each weekday, so keep an eye out!
>>
>>4997162

The shipment contents were implied earlier, but writing it out explicitly felt important for this vote. To answer your other question, and specify to humans, 12.
>>
>>4997168
>To answer your other question, and specify to humans, 12.
Ohhh yeah we are definitely castrating any survivors
>>
>>4997074
>>
>>4997083
>>4997130
>>4997131
>>4997162
Picking up and writing
>>
>>4997616
After weighing the options, considering the balance between the added risk of going off the planned mission, and the reward of valuable information about the captured Elin, you make a decision.

This is something you will do alone. By going in alone, you add an incredible element of perceived vulnerability.

He doesn't see you as a smart and trustworthy girl, he doesn't see you as an equal, he doesn't want to. With the blasé method he went about trying to convince you to be his victim, you know that this isn't the first time he leveraged his power for sex.

That's fine. Caution is raised only with perceived threats, and by offering only yourself, you give the slaver guard's no reason to be on edge. This forced perspective of a staggering imbalance of power will engorge their carnal desires, and starve any reservations they may have about sharing what they know. That's when you will strike, after they've let their guard down, after the divulged what they know.

No need to put the younger ones directly in harms way. But perhaps they could support in some way?

"B-but that won't work." You finally reply keeping your eyes locked on your fidgeting feet.

"And why the hell not?" His voice already laced with anger.

"Because...Philia's dad is deputy consul." You point at the cart with concern. "She'll tell him for sure, and we'll get into loads of trouble at school." Your voice pleads.

"Ahhgh." He groans quietly as the fear of reprisal begins to rise over him.

You fidget a bit more. "But, maybe could I just go alone? You can tell my friends that you're pulling me in for questioning, and...No, that's dumb. Forget it."

"No wait. Wait." His voice easily betraying his relief and excitement. "That can work. That will work. We'll just be doing our jobs." He pulls your chin up to look him into the eyes. His aging face is covered with countless scars and weathered from the sun. "Where are the four of you lodging?"

Meekly, you inform him of the inn you reserved as part of your cover story.

His wide toothy smile unravels yet again. "Perfect. You just stay put there late tonight, and we'll come get you. No need to worry about what to do or say, we'll take care of it. By the way, you can call me Sario."

In one smooth motion he gives your chin one final squeeze before banging on the side of the cart. "Voldt, Briggs! We're done here."

[1/2]
>>
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>>4997694

~

The sun begins to make its final descent behind the horizon, painting its trail deep reds, yellows, and even purples far behind it. After finally passing through the mountain range that separates the lush lands of the Freeholds, the dry expanse of the Val Aureum desert stretches far out in front of you, terminating at western coast of this continent. The hot air brushes against the skin with its dusty touch, and during the height of the day desperately it makes you want to seek shelter.

The mountains, the sky, the heat, they're all the same as the first time you came into these lands. However, the sprawling desert city oasis of Chebika that towers over the rolling dunes was little more than a few thatched huts, and a stout watchtower. You've watched as trade and the inevitable march of time have carved out a towering bastion of wealth and power. Even as late in the day as it is now, caravans come and go.

Tulufan is barely just visible over its shoulder, far in the distance. A stark contrast, and hardly worth calling a town, but an integral staging point for all imports and exports in this land. The wealth it generates is thoroughly funneled into Chebika, leaving it humble in comparison.

No one remembers the primal cults that used to plague this land. Since their eradication, and the death of their god, they exist only now as the thoughts you breathe life into. The occult refuge that you helped storm so long ago surely has been consumed by the sands by now.

A key victory for the forgotten Federation. In the celebration that followed, that's when you first saw [i]her[/i].

"Uuuhgghhhh" Ruby vocalizes quite loudly while stretching, snapping you back to reality. "Now we gotta walk through the desert, huh?"

Aloé approaches, dusting off the back of her skirt. "I know a place in Chebika where we could get something to drink before heading off. All sorts of fruit drinks too." She announces much to Ruby and Philia's delight, and then turns to you. "It's not too out of the way. But ahh." She looks toward the horizon. "It is starting to get dark."

You sigh to yourself. Honestly, your mind keeps going back to old memories. It might do you some good to allow them to take this break to help you focus as well. It will also give you the chance to discuss any potential involvement the others may have in your plan for tonight.

On the other hand, creatures are more likely to strike after the sun has set. It will make the trip to Tulufan more hazardous, and potentially more time consuming as well.

It is currently early evening. Under normal conditions it would be an hour and a half walk from Chebika to Tulufan. You estimate that you have around three hours until Sario and his companions show up to fetch you.

>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.

>Head straight to Tulufan while some of the sun is still out.

>Write in.
>>
>>4997699
>Leave some backup supplies here before heading to Tulufan.
How are we getting all the slaves out again? Do we need to jump the border with a LOT more people?
>>
>>4997318
Great minds think alike.
>>4997699
>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.
Let them indulge. Catch them up on the plan. Still, we'd better keep it short. Less than an hour, as I suppose nightfall will lengthen the trip, even without surprises.
>>
>>4997713
Good question. For now, I will say look to the geography. If you can't leave by land...
>>
>>4997724
Are the four of us going to commandeer the slave ship ? Big endeavor. What kind of intel do we have on it ? Who in the group even knows how to sail ?
>>
>>4997750
While trying to keep as much in the story writing as possible: There are reasons for picking who you did for this mission, and there are all sorts of ships docked in those ports.

I didn't get around to elaborating about the return trip in the updates so far, so I'll be sure to address that in the next one.
>>
>>4997699
>>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.
>>
>>4997720
>>4997823

Heading into the city for a quick break.

>Writing
>>
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The update that just kept going..

>>4998025


You nod your head in approval, instantly exciting the other three. They truly were prepared to skip out on their break if you gave the order.

Aloé leads the way through the stark white city gates, animatedly chatting with Ruby. You and Philia follow a few feet behind. Each of you lug around a large school rucksack that stows away your belongings. Ruby weapon and yours stick out from the knapsacks you use to stow your belongings. But, with hers being wrapped in its heavy cloth and yours not identifiable to most as a weapon, they hide in plain sight.

Once past the gatehouse, you're greeted with a wash of colors as varied as the sky overhead, and the lively roar of a city coming alive with the passing of the heat of the day. Strung lanterns bob overhead lighting the streets and overhanging balconies filled with inhabitants delighting in the evening. There's a palpable animation to the air, but it's more of a languid flavor than anything you would experience in Velika.

Philia playfully greets the occasional passerby who almost always returns the favor. "You should take residence here, instead of that oppressive capital. They've built too high and too extensively there. It's not a place meant for our kind anymore. The air has grown quite....perilous for us. While this air isn't a substitute for the forest, you can still sense nature here."

The two of you stop abruptly as three wild children run past giggling into the night. "It's too isolated when it comes to information. All types of business will make its way through Velika." You reply quietly. "I've lived there a very long time, Philia. I don't mind the air there or hazards it brings, and I'm committed to uncovering why it's changing."

Philia gazes at you with her azure eyes, color undampened by the reduced light. "Is that so?" She seems a bit disappointed. "Forgive me for trying, for likely trying again, and for any future attempts to try with those two young ones."

"You're not much different than those two in my eyes." You give her a slight smile. "Fresh out of the lake, all three of you."

"Hurry up, you two!" Ruby shouts back to you, a considerable distance further than at first start. "It's right here!"

~

[1/3]
>>
>>4998270


"Mmmmm, that's so good!" Aloé exclaims, getting a grin from the elderly man serving you. She turns to your red-headed companion. "Ah! Ruby, slow down! You're not going to taste it."

Ruby had already begun to down her drink like it was a contest of speed. "Iffsh cohld!" She beams in surprise. "And sweet!"

You allow them to continue like this for a few carefree minutes before finally bringing up the mission. "I understand that this is a break, but there's new details about the mission I'd like to share." You announce once they've settled down.

You divulge your plan to head off alone with the guards to the slaver's hideout to gather information, and why you decided to head off alone. Their expressions are an easily read mixture of concern and frustration.

"All that said..." You take a slow sip from your drink, it's a bit much on the sweet side for you. "I'm going to need you to follow me there when I do get escorted. I'll do the talking, but upon my signal of late we will dispatch them however we see fit, making sure they're out of the picture for at least a day after. But, I need all of you to understand the importance of this move. Not only could we find out more about who these slavers are, we could find out who they plan on targeting, and if they have anyone else besides this shipment." You take turns looking at each of your three companions. "If our cover is lost tonight, then it will be impossible to achieve what we came out here to do."

They take some time to digest what you say before one of them finally decides to speak up.
>>
>>4998271


"I will put my faith in Elewyn." Philia nods to herself. "Especially if it means rescuing our kin and any others they may possess."

Aloé chooses to cross her arms and think for a moment longer. "I kinda don't agree with the plan, seeing how risky it is and all but, hmm yeah, I know how capable you are, and I will put trust in that."

Ruby leans back scraping out the last of her drink into her mouth with her finger. "You're paying me so I'll carry out the job. That's what good mercs do."

You slide the remainder of your drink to your red-headed companion, much to her delight. "If that's settled, then we will go through the rest of the mission like this. Tomorrow we will lay low in Tulufan until the evening, all the while keeping a lookout. Then we will supposedly head out to the northern caves for our field study, where we will be spending the night, and then heading back to Chebika the following morning. In reality, after the sun has fully set tomorrow, that's when we'll depart from the caves and head toward the western docks under the cover of darkness."

"And we will stay out of sight while securing all captured Elin they have on their ship." Aloé follows up. "From there, we will meet my contact in the royal guard at the dock who will have a unmarked vessel offshore for us to leave in before sunrise."

"We'll dock temporarily in the Freeholds, from which Aloé and her friend will continue on to ensure the rest of us aren't followed. From there, we will scatter for a time, and I'll escort our rescued kin to the woods north of there and to safety." Philia finishes.

The four of you seem satisfied with the plan as it stands, and its been a little less than an hour. Your companions each order more drinks.

You raise your eyebrows when your red-headed companion is still able to chug through her third drink.

"What?" She responds when she notices. "I like sweet drinks."

You've noticed. You choose not to say anything on that thought.

"Oh, I know all the best places in Velika!" Aloé jumps in. "Not only drinks, but desserts too! There's a bakery that lets you practice making some cakes. It's the best after a long week of training to just make a big batch of whatever you'd like."

"Baking?" Your red-headed companion finishes her drink. "Now why would you want to do something as lame as that?" She laughs scornfully.

You're not quite sure why she has such a strong opinion against it.

"Lame?" Aloé exclaims. "Now I won't stand for that. No way." She says as she stands.

Sensing a long argument brewing, you stand as well. "Alright, time to go."

[3/4]
>>
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>>4998275

~

The two of them are still going at it as you walk the sandy path from Chebika to Tulufan. The sky is entirely a dark blue as all of you march ahead in the low light. You illuminate the tip of your staff at a dull, warm glow to appear similar to a torch to a distant observer. For about thirty minutes you march forward with the only the sound of both your companions still in heated argument and the nearby insects chirping. Suddenly the whine of the desert insect ceases as you hear a loud crunching from behind a nearby sand dune.

You immediately turn to your three companions. "Get your weapons out!"

To their credit, they perk up quickly and all reach for their weapons as the source of the crunching noise rises above the dune.

A massive reptilian creature turns its snout in your direction as it takes deep whiffs of the air. Blind as it may be, it has no issue picking up your scent and salivating at the prospect of a new meal.

...
>>
>>4998277

So I had planned to write the first round of combat tonight, but I don't think I'm up for continuing any more before bed. So, we'll pick up sometime tomorrow.

This is going to be a straightforward encounter to get us used to combat in general. Still, I suppose if the dice rolls are cruel enough something bad may happen. Combat rules and character sheets for Elewyn and Ruby are here:

>>4995889

In the meantime, I'll be around for a little while longer to answer any questions.
>>
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Let's get this battle started shall we?

This will be a learning experience for me as much as it will for you guys. I'm almost certain that things will need to be tweaked, and there will be hiccups. So, thanks for your patience in advance.

Also there has been an update to the Combat rules to explain how actions will be performed on player/QM sides, check it out.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1peKn2-vZzeDmAXhy_ZlifFA9nOMlaEs3PK7hgKSel3M/edit?usp=sharing

Reference character sheets here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

>>4998277

Aloé with a short sword and buckler pulls into the vanguard with a planted stance. "Alright! I'll take on its hits while you guys finish it off."

Philia's bow and arrow materializes from thin air with an ethereal azure glow surrounding it. "It seems to be searching for us with scent. It might change the target of its attacks accordingly."

Ruby has a wide and bold stance toward the front with her greatsword at the ready. "Finally! Let's cut him up!"

You note the height difference of the raptor standing on the high dune. It flexes its large thighs as it pinpoints the source of your scents "It will probably charge us, and it's first hit will be brutal."

Almost on cue, the raptor snarls, stamps its legs, and begins a trot down the dune straight at the four of you. Without any actions to change, it will impact into Aloé first.

__________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Ruby and Elewyns actions.

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 30

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

The massive raptor is wildly charging at your vanguard, and appears in perfect health.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4998736
>Ewelyn casts Dawn's blessing on Aloé before impact.
>Ruby waits for impact on Aloé to use Gnaw on the raptor.

What size is the raptor ? Is it dependent on our size or a general classification,anyway ?
>>
>>4998736
>Ewelyn casts Dawn's blessing on Aloé before impact.
>Ruby waits for impact on Aloé to use Gnaw on the raptor.
This seems like a good course of action to me too, we reduce the pressure on our tank and we have a decent chance of inflicting bleed early on. I'm curious how much HP enemies are going to have, because depending on how things are balanced, the DoT from bleed (15% total HP per turn) could be pretty OP. Admittedly, that would be against a single oponent, maybe not so much when fighting groups of enemies.
>>
>>4998801
The size of the raptor is large, which you can consider to be a general classification. Everyone in the team is small, and adult humans would be medium

>>4998806
Enemies HP will be varied, and the exact amount will be unknown to you most of the time. (I can tell you after each battle if you'd like.) But a general rule of thumb would be that the larger the enemy the more HP.
>>
Rolled 10, 3 = 13 (2d10)

>>4998801
>>4998806
To keep things rolling, we'll go ahead with this set of choices.

>Elewyn to cast Dawn's Blessing before the impact.
MP Cost: 3

>Ruby to wait for first impact on Aloé, then use Gnaw on the raptor.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 6)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7+3=15
Bleed Chance if Connected: 100%
>>
>>4998806
>>4998811
And with that confirmation, Gnaw indeed gives us a guaranteed bleed on a hit.
Does bleed expire ? What if we inflict it two times in a row ? Will it last longer, become more potent, or have no effect ?
>>
Rolled 2 (1d3)

>>4998828
Bleed does not expire without outside influence, and it does not stack.


>>4998827
Ruby's Gnaw will connect

Aloé is planted to absorb impact, so rolling for raptor bleed chance:
1d3, 3 = bleed

>Writing the outcome
>>
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>>4998830

You immediately raise your staff high in the air and evoke Dawn's Blessing to help shield your companions from attacks. An aura of protection radiates from you, making your companions feel more robust.

Aloé plants herself firmly before the impact. A slight glow emits from her hands and feet as she braces herself behind her shield.

Stomping down the sand dune with great speed, the raptor crashes immediately against Aloé's augmented guards, crunching and snarling brutally upon impact.

Aloé feet slide back into the sand as the blow to her chest sends her flat on her rear. She reaches back to prop herself up again.

Angered, Ruby immediately slams the length of her blade against the raptors chest and twists it against its flesh. Ruby snarls as the skin easily yields under her blade, oozing crimson fluid onto the ground and onto Aloé, causing the raptor to shriek and twist away in pain.

After a quick incantation, the glow of Philia's weapon intensifies as she pulls back a heavy enchanted arrow and takes aim at the raptor. "If you'd be so kind to keep it occupied for a little while longer..." She calls out with slight strain in her voice.

The collision was savage, but of all four of you Aloé can takes those hits the best. "Ahhh~. That hurt." A little unsteadily she begins to rise to her feet again, her lower half slick with the raptors blood.

The raptor huffs and sniffs the air deeply. Drool and hot breath emanating from its mouth. The bite of your red-headed companion's weapon did some damage, but the raptor still has plenty of fight left in it. It sniffs wildly, seemingly undecided which of you to target.

After breaking Aloé's guard, the raptor stands amongst the four of you, while Philia is currently locked down charging her next heavy shot.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 27

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 19
MP: 2

The raptor is wildly searching for its next target, and bleeds from its injury.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4998877
It's trying to figure out which one to attack, but I'm not sure if it will avoid or target the ones covered in blood(Aloe and Ruby's weapon)

I'm gonna assume Philia for now.

Ruby
>Slide under and brace your weapon against its legs, trying to prevent it from moving.

Elewyn
>Stellar Gale on its nose, confusing its senses for a moment longer
>>
>>4999088

To let you know, the blood will lead to ignoring as it will be different from your original scents that it picked up.
>>
I'm a little busy tonight, so there might not be an update until tomorrow. That said, we're at one response, so there's plenty of room for more votes.

I'll be sure to post when I start writing again.
>>
>>4999088
I'll support this
>>
>>4999088
Ruby
>Wait for Aloé to take the hit, then Heavy Slash
We already have bleed. More phys amp= more dmg.
Elewyn
>Sundowning
I don't think Stellar Gale will work here. If anything, it would push it out of Ruby's range and throw off Phillia's aim. I'm worried about mana regen out of combat, though. That's a third of our max going into a single target stun.
>>
>>4999559
It's too big to rely on the push effect, but I'm wondering if the wind itself can mess with the smell.

Stun is the other option, of course.
>>
>>4999560
Could we blow sand into its nose?
>>
>>4999564
dirt maybe, or chucking some sort of ice or fire at it.
>>
Rolled 9, 9, 1, 8 = 27 (4d10)

>>4999088
>>4999522
>>4999559

>Ruby to lock down the raptors movement with her blade.
Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 6, the first 2 dice)
Total Physical Amplification if connected: 5+9+3=17

>>4999088
>>4999559
Elewyn to use Stellar Gale on the raptor's nose area.
MP Cost: 2
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8, the last 2 dice)
>>
>>4999602
Both Ruby's and Elewyn's actions will connect.

Rolling for the raptor's next action.
Rolling 2d10 (CR 7)

>Writing outcome
>>
Rolled 10, 7 = 17 (2d10)

>>4999605
It would help if I actually rolled.
>>
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>>4999605
Sensing that the raptor is panting heavily in an effort to taste the air in order to find a new target, you immediate aim your staff at its head. A concentrated blast of wind shoots forth from its tip, with a blast of wind directed behind you to stabilize the recoil. Sand whips up in your wake as the wind blast smacks into the raptors snout, kicking its head back roughly.

The resulting blow causes the raptor extend high on its legs, its search temporarily disrupted.

Ruby jumps forward to lock down the raptor from rearing back any further. With a mighty lunge forward, she drives the tip of her sword into the raptors foot, crunching through and shattering the bone within.

"Much appreciated!” Philia shouts to Ruby as she lets loose the heavy arrow. It shrieks as it speeds through the air making a dramatic impact of azure flames as it pierces straight into the raptor’s torso, causing heavy damage.

Aloé now has the time to find her footing again, and rushes to plant herself in between Ruby and the desperate raptor’s next blow. The raptors claws come down with a flurry of quick slashes as it panics, bleeding heavily from the gory wound that Ruby carved earlier. Its claws come against Aloé and her buckler which has sprouted thick woody spines that shatter and stick into the raptors claws. She takes some cuts from the onslaught, but her guard holds.

Sensing the futility of continuing its current assault the raptor quite literally tears itself free from Ruby’s greatsword, and slams back into the sand, thrashing, and staining the sand heavily with its blood. It pants heavily on its side, grave injuries quite clear to all around, its tail smacks against the ground as it calls out into the dark with a strange unexpected chirping noise.

It’s calling out to something in the dark. You need to move fast to finish it off before its heard, but you’re also aware of how dangerous an animal on its last legs can be.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 25

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 15
MP: 2

The raptor is downed on its side, and heavily wounded. It's calling out to the darkness for help.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4999696
Kill it, kill it now !
Ruby
>Slash
Finish it off this turn hopefully.

Ewelyn
>Healing light on Aloé
Better do this in case we get further company.
>>
>>4999716
This.
>>
>>4999696
Supporting >>4999716
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that raptors would hunt in packs. Too bad we don't have some sort of Silence or Muffle spell
>>
>>4999758
We had stupor in the intro. Now we don't. How strange.
>>
>>4999799
Elewyn does have stupor via Sundowning. I didn't use it earlier because the vote leaned toward using Stellar Gale last round instead.
>>
Rolled 3, 5 = 8 (2d10)

>>4999716
>>4999744
>>4999758

>Ruby to attack it with a slash.
Stamina Cost:4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 3)
Total Physical Amplification if connected: 5+9+3=17

Elewyn to cast Healing Light on Aloé
MP Cost:6
(Will roll in a following post for healing range)
>>
Rolled 1 (1d3)

>>5000147
Rolling for healing range (1d3, 3=greatest heal)

No need to roll for this raptor anymore.

>Writing
>>
>>5000150

While you focus healing energy upon Aloé, you shout to your companions. "Finish it off, before it can call for more help!"

Ruby dutifully responds to your command and dashes quickly to the fallen raptor. She holds her large blade to the side while she slices through the backside of the beast, pouring out hot blood in her wake.

By now, the raptor has hardly the energy to let out more than a few more whimpers into the darkness before slumping its head onto the sand.

Aloé catches up after Ruby has carved through, and noticing that the beast has no fight left in it, mercifully puts it out of its misery with a quick stab to the back of the neck. "Shhh..." She whispers softly to the corpse. "Sleep, alright?."

The raptor has been slain. The scene of the battle is stained dark with its blood, and the once smooth dune has been carved into itself by the raptor in its final death throes.

Philia loosed a glowing arrow far into the distance, faintly illuminating an agitated raptor searching for the lost calls of its companion. "We should depart before it manages to locate us." She announces as she walks up to you.

"Aww man." Ruby whines as she supports a battered Aloé. "These tough monsters always have something valuable to carve off."

"Another time." You pull Aloé arm around you and lead your group away from the battle scene.

[1/2]
>>
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>>5000301


The four of you made it to your lodging without any further incident on the road. After initially getting settled, Ruby and Phillia quickly went off to get bandages and other essential supplies. There's probably just under an hour until Sario and his guards arrive to take you off to the slaver's hideout.

You ease Aloé into the warm bath water, supporting her under her armpits, as she winces in pain. "Almost there. It will stop stinging once you're fully in there."

The bath reddens with the raptor's rehydrated blood as she's lowered into it.

"Ah, ahhh. Ow!" She cries out, and then suddenly furrows her brow. "Ah! Eh, haha. I mean, it doesn't hurt all that much at all!..." Her clearly body shakes slightly from fatigue and pain.

"Sure, sure." You reply softly as you finish getting her settled. "You know..." You start as you fill a small bucket with the bathwater. "You are brave. You are strong. You have all the qualities one could ever want to be a royal guardsmen." Her ears already redden as you begin to softly pour the water through her sand caked hair. You wait a moment for it to roll off her head. "Showing what you're feeling isn't going to take away from that."

She nods and laughs lightly while you repeat pouring the warm water over her hair, rubbing away the sand that sticks. Your hand settles on the top of her head for a long time, as the two of you sit in silence. As the water drips off her brow, and back into the bath, her chest begins to hiccup with a suppressed sob. Embarrassed, she drops her mouth beneath the water line, but her reddened eyes give her away.

"Ahhh..." You sigh lightly. "I didn't mean to make you upset." You soak a thin washcloth and begin cleaning her chest and back. "Maybe, I'm not good at giving advice." You muse in this quiet moment. "There's been so many times. So many of you all, that I think I'm just giving advice while seeing you all as the same person. Not thinking about what... what would be best to say for each of you." You stop and smile slightly at her. "You did good out there."

Her eyes widen and her chest heaves more with several compressed sobs.

[2/3]
>>
>>5000303

You give her a time to compose herself as you delicately wash the bruises around her chest and stomach.

"Elewyn?" She finally says after some time. "Why...Hmmm... Why are we good at that? I mean why can we fight when we're so much smaller? Why can I take those hits...and not die?" She looks at her hands as the lightly glow with the same light she had as she guarded against the raptor. "I've been able to do this for as long as I can remember. But, no one back home could ever tell me why. 'That's just how it is.' Is what they always said."

You stop and stare at the turbid water.

What good would there be in telling her? Telling any of them? Is there anyone left old enough to refute the truth that you decide?

Being fragments of god affords your kind the various powers they hold. Being fragments of a god kept those powers robust, and allowed them to grow. Being fragments of a god kept all of your kind deeply tied to nature. Being fragments of a god kept your kind in the infinite cycle of rebirth.

Your god has been dead for a long time. They think her sleeping. A lie that was told because the truth was too unbearable that morphed into a false reality. The powers have slowly waned, with no way to reverse the course. The voices of nature are mute to most of you.

There hasn't been a single Elin pulled from the Lake in decades.

>Lie "Your powers are who you are, Aloé. Just as much as your ears, eyes, or nose. But you don't question why you have those."

>Write in.
>>
>>5000305
>Half Truths are enough for the middle of the mission
>It is a small blessing from the goddess, afforded to all Elin. But don't let that be an excuse to rest on your laurels.
>>
>>5000307
Sure.
>Special link to the goddess, comes with blessings. Don't let your head get too big about it.
Let's not hit them with the heavy stuff the night before an op. She's handling it well, best keep it that way.
>>
>>5000305
>Special link to the goddess, comes with blessings. Don't let your head get too big about it.
>>
>>5000307
>>5000662
>>5000744
Place and time

>Writing
>>
>>5001178

You finally look up and give her a light smile. "You know of the goddess, don't you? Our powers are our link to her, special to only our kind. The blessings that link affords us is why we can fight as we do, and why I think we must continue to fight as we do. I can tell that the duty that you have chosen is important to you. What you think is just and right, is important to you. What you want to protect is important to you. So, fight for those things, let your gifts help you fight for those things."

While taking a second to think on the time, you lean back sigh. You ought to wrap this up. "Just don't ever forget that no matter how strong your gifts make you, it can all be taken away..."

No. That's not for her.

"Just...don't let those things go to your head." You quickly follow up.

In that instant, she stands and boldly crosses her arm across her chest in the standard royal guard pose. "Never. I will always be the vanguard that guides and protects."

She recites a line from the royal guard creed, seemingly forgotten about her soreness in that moment. Among other things.

"Ah!" She suddenly realizes the bold level of exposure she displays her front side to you, and then plunges back into the bath.

The story of how she became a member of the royal guard is certainly something you'd like to hear. Perhaps soon, after all this is said and done?

~

As the hour approaches the four of you make a show of acting as four rambunctious youths on a trip might, at least, you allow the other three to go about as they normally would. The dingy room the inn gave you seems all the smaller with their voices filling it up.

You've already gone over the plan once again after Ruby and Philia returned. All that remains is to wait for Sario's arrival, act the part of a vulnerable girl to extract as much information as you can, and then take care of them.

There are three pieces of information that you'd most like to know:

Why capture a group of only Elin?
Who is the one purchasing this shipment?
Are there any other captured Elin?

[1/3]
>>
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>>5001307

There's surely to be at least some piece of information in the hideout itself. Any other hidden information that may out of sight or rumors privy to the guards will be more than what's easily found at the hideout. At any point, you need only emit a flash of light and you and your companions will put a thorough end to the questioning.

At that moment, a ruckus could be heard from the entrance of the inn. Namely, a loud Sario argues with innkeeper that he needs to search the premises for a person of interest.

His voice becomes more clear as he moves closer. "We're just here to pull a person of interest in for questioning...don't get in the way of official business if ya know what's good for you." The sounds of a confrontation can be heard from beyond your door, as well as a hard thud to the ground.

With a simple nod to your companions you pick up your bag and sheepishly step out into the hall partially hiding behind your pack.

His eyes fix on you. "There you are, you little brat! You think I wouldn't notice the little trick you played on us earlier?" His two companions lurk behind him standing over the incapacitated innkeeper. "You're coming with us."

He wrenches you forward by the upper arm and then shoves you toward the entrance, during which your companions make a show of screaming and protesting your capture. "Ah, shut up the lot of you, and don't get in the way of guard business unless you want to end up like this idiot" After a solid kick to the downed innkeeper, he turns back to you and smacks you across the back of the head. "Move."

Once outside, the four of you walk in silence until out of earshot of the inn. Tulufan lacks the relaxed air that Chebika had. The streets are poorly lit at night, and most people out seem in a hurry to get where they're going rather than enjoying the night, especially as they see the group of three guards walking through the streets.

[2/3]
>>
>>5001309

Sario finally breaks the silence "Damn, innkeeper making a fuss. I wouldn't had to make such a a scene if he just minded his own business. He rests his arm around your shoulder. "Sorry about roughing you up, it was all for show. I hope you can forgive me, and if not, then I'll spend the night making you feel better. A matter of fact, we all will. Isn't that right boys?"

"Course." One of the others replies, while both of them laugh to themselves.

He laughs to himself about their inside joke. "There you go. Now don't think of us guards hauling you off. We're all equal here, and we're all just here to have some adult fun. Now little..." He leans down to look at you.

"Elly..." You responds quietly

"Elly. We might be a little rough around the edges, but given that you decided to come out here with us, I'm guessing you'd like to be a little wild as well. Now you're a smart girl, so you go ahead and think about what that would mean to you. While we're getting to where we're going, let's just get to know each other a little bit more." He pulls you in a little bit closer to his side much to your disgust. "How old are ya Elly?"

"Twelve." You answer plainly.

He sighs deeply in his chest, breath shaky from excitement. "Now that's a fine age for such a fine girl. We never get to hang out with anyone as cute as you here, and especially not when we're forced to get shipped off across the sea. Ugh, everyone there are strange ones. " He takes a moment to regain his composure. "Anyway, enough about that. You ever do something like this before, Elly?"

You craft your answer carefully. "...No. But, some of the older girls told me about going out with some of the guards near the academy and..."

He smiles widely "Got ya interested? Well, we're sure as hell not going to disappoint." His breathing hastens as he's eager to get to the hideout. "Now it's only fair that you get to know us too. Go on, ask away."

After hearing him go on as he does, you somehow doubt that these simple-minded deviants were directly privy to any valuable information. Perhaps they know more than they can appreciate. But how would three rule breaking enforcers come across information that's valuable to you?

>Remain quiet, entice him further with the shy act.

>Write in
>>
>>5001312
>Ask them what it's like on a ship, or where they go.
>Stick to the curious angle, let them brag about the outside world
>>
I'm going to let the vote stay open until the morning, and write what we have then. Have a good one, guys
>>
>>5001619
Yeah try to coax him into bragging about his job
>>
>>5001619
Sure.
Maybe don't ask what ships are like if our cover story has us traveling by boat to here, though. But yeah, stroke his ego and absolutely nothing else !
>>
>>5001619
>>5001964
>>5002006
Continuing the questioning

>Writing
>>
>>5002138

You decide that the best way to gather information is to coax them into doing all the talking.

You hug your pack tightly. "Being a guard means that you have to deal with monsters and criminals...Is it dangerous?"

This elicits a jovial laugh from all three of them. Sario finally speaks up once they settle down. "Course it is! You think we carry these swords and armor around for show? All sorts of creatures out there all to ready to bite into a tasty snack like yourself, and that's not even mentioning the monsters. But, I go out there with a few good men at my back, and the problem is always taken care of."

A dark cat bolts out from the darkness in front of the four of you. Sario's subordinates begin to unsheathe their swords when he raises his hand to stop them.

"How's it going to make me look now, if you lot go jumping at shadows." He points to the cat as it stares at all of you warily. "You're not the only one out on the town...Save it for the real work, boys. You'll scare off the pussy."

You subtly take a glance behind you to see the briefest glimpse of a small shadow disappearing from sight. Your companions still need to practice tailing without being noticed.

The cat takes its leave into the dark night, and you resume your trip. "Real work?" You're quick to follow up on that phrase. "Like overseas?...I've never been."

He smirks as his hand shifts slightly to rest more on your collarbone than shoulder. "That's right. That's where the real dangerous work is. We only ever dock in one place, one cursed little place hidden by the ash of a huge volcano. Loads of men lost after spending a night off in the town. Better to stay away if you know what's good for you. There's plenty to watch erupt here if that's what you're after."

Docked near a volcano?.....Ah. You can see how it might seem like a volcano to the uninformed. You now know generally where their ships dock across the sea.

Lorcada.
>>
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>>5002268
The four of you have drifted toward the outskirts of town, where you climb up a steep hill. At the crest of which lies an unassuming lot of buildings guarded by tall walls. The guards go about unlocking the imposing gate, after which you're led inside.

The true luxury of the building is well shielded by the tall walls, as when you pass through you're greeted with a courtyard with a tall marble fountain flanked by small fruiting trees. Ornate frescos come to life as the guards go about lighting the torches of the small plaza.

Sario leads you past the fountain and inside. "We'll take a dip later tonight. After we get to know each other a bit more."

~

The three guards had you settle into an alcove that looks over the courtyard. The air is heavy with lit incense and the smell of liquor. Thick cushions line the carved stone floors, which the guards splay out upon, with most of their armor removed at this point. Sario and his guards chat away, taking huge swigs of dark liquor and smoking from a long pipe. He keeps you very close with his thighs gripping your sides and his arms crossed in front of you.

You're sure the mood is quite relaxed for them, as they look forward to what they think will come soon. Some time passes with them talking among themselves.

"We're being bad hosts, boys." Sario announces with the strong liquor already affecting his speech. "Here, Elly. A toast to new friends." He announces as places a small cup of liquor in your hands.

"To new friends!" The other two follow.

You meekly raise your cup, make sure to take a tentative glance at it, before taking a sip. It's on the stronger side, but several complex flavors still comes through and evolve into each other quite nicely. It certainly is a quality liquor, but you make a show of coughing and panting for air.

Once their laughter has settled, Sario wraps himself more tightly around you and slides a greedy hand down your blouse. "Friends right? Let's keep chatting...My, you're a straight line from nose to toe aren't you?"

In another time...He probably would've beat him Sario unconscious and then some...In another time...she probably would've just cut off his limbs. But...you only belong to yourself now.

Your bag and staff are easily in reach. Signaling the others would be quick at this point, and frankly you're ready to scrub off every part of you that Sario even looked at. You've found the slaver's hideout, and managed to extract some valuable information about where they dock across the sea. That said, information spills forth from drunk lips the easiest. If there's anything else worth knowing, they'd share it with little resistance.

>Signal your companions for the ambush.

>Hold off for now. See if there's any other information to extract.

>Write in.
>>
>>5002271

As irked as Ewelyn is, I figure we have a shot at getting intel on who's hired them. If not the leader at least the next rung on the ladder. It could be worth it so long as he doesn't move past fondling, at which point we will have to cut info gathering short and move on to our regularly scheduled emasculation.
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
No more needs to be said
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
They might be talkative with a boot on their chests and a sword at their throats too.
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
I doubt that what they know is completely true anyway. We've got what we came here for, and we can get rid of them without armor.
>>
>>5002506
>>5002549
>>5002554
Signaling the ambush. Get ready for combat.

>Writin
>>
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>>5002271

They've settled down with drink, lowered their guard, and taken off their armor. You've got what you wanted from them, so no more needs to be said.

With one smooth motion, you reach for your bag and pull out you staff.

"Whoa there, girl. That's one fancy stick you've got there." Sario replies in surprise, reaching out for your staff.

"Don't ever touch it." Your voice cold as you slide out of his lascivious grasp and raise your staff high in the air to invoke a bright arc of Brilliance from your staff.

The smoky warm night is torn asunder as the light of a small star emitted from the tip of your staff shines, signaling your companions.

"Aw, fuck! I can't see" You hear one of the call out as the stumble drunkenly and blinded.

Once you hear the rapid footfalls of your companions making their way through the courtyard, you release the spell to allow them to see where you are.

"UGH! You pigs!" Aloé calls out into the night as she runs around one side of the large fountain. "You'll get yours!"

Ruby dashes along the other side of the fountain rushing to your aid as well. "Yup, you're not going to like what Carver can do you, creeps!"

Philia follows closely behind her. "Uncouth and shameful, treating a girl like that!"

The guards are just starting to assess the situation, but don't have their weapons drawn yet.
__________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Elewyn and Ruby

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 30

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

Two trained guards, and one guard captain surround Elewyn, all unarmored. The ambush and alcohol cause them to be unprepared attack this round, but they will make it very difficult for Elewyn to reach her allies. Ruby is out of reach for attack this round, so her action will be skipped.

>Write in movement/actions for Elewyn
>>
>>5002594
Do we have a knife in that bag? If not, I'm perfectly willing to ram the staff up or down any orifices
>>
>>5002636
No knife, but there are swords lying around. Be warned, however, Elewyn isn't trained to use one at all. There is always after the battle, if you'd like. (Provided things go well.)

The staff is completely off limits for that.
>>
>>5002594
>>5002636
Wait, we can use the wind recoil. Assuming we've only got the staff to work with:
>Jam the staff in one of the guard's mouth or ass.
>Point the staff away from your party and use the Gale Winds to push the two of you towards your party
>>
>>5002650
Fine, fine. Sword is a bad idea, so stick to using our own body as a wind-powered battering ram?
>>
>>5002650
Dropped trip, but to clarify: not opposed to the insertion of weapons into the guards orifices as an action, only the staff is off-limits.

>>5002651
Also, this would be two actions.
>>
>>5002655
Completely valid
>>
>>5002658
>>5002651
If we can, then take the captain with us towards the party with the Gale. If not, use it to reposition. As a last resort, we should target the captain with it, as he is clearly the bigger threat.
>>
>>5002948
I'll summarize with using Gale to move yourself and Sario toward your party would be extremely difficult given the current positions and the extra two guards. If you wanted to use it on yourself, you'd have to maneuver around the guards to get out of being surrounded.


>>5002651
>>5002948
It seems to me the votes are circling around using Gale to gain a more advantaged position for Elewyn. I'll leave the vote open for a while longer for anyone else, and for any additional questions.
>>
Rolled 3, 9 = 12 (2d10)

I think I got a decent combination of what's been suggested.

>Elewyn to use Stellar Gale on Sario to simultaneously knock him down, and push herself out of flanking position.
MP Cost:2
Rolling 2d10 to see if the jump back clears the other two guards. (CR 10)
>>
Also, I've been considering using twitter to notify when updates are posted here for the sake of facilitating participation as much as I can. If that's something you'd like implemented, and/or you have alternatives please let me know.

>>5003405
Elewyn will clear the two guards unscathed.

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5003408

Before they have the chance to even recover their weapons, you quickly aim your staff at Sario's legs, and unleash a gale of wind, making sure that you don't counterbalance the recoil.

Caught off guard, his legs are easily swept out from underneath him, causing him to slam hard on the ornate marble tile. "You fucking bitch!" He shouts in pure rage on his back.

The reaction force propels you past his two subordinates, who attempt to grab you, but you manage to slip through. After missing their chance to grab you, they pick up their weapons off the ground and rush after you.

For a brief moment you soar through the smoky air, your clothes rippling as you land gracefully near the foot of the stairs. Your dark beret falls to the ground. At the same time your companions rush forth, with Ruby and Aloé acting as the vanguard against the approaching two guards.

"Holy hell!" Ruby exclaims as you suddenly land near her. Not skipping a beat she grins cheekily at the guard approaching her and she twists her greatsword to show off its wicked teeth. "Too bad for you that you get to meet me and Carver. He likes the dangly bits."

Once she sees you've landed alright, Aloé turns her attention back to the guardsman looming over her and confidently raises her sword and shield. "I have half a mind to turn all of you in for horribly violating your positions. But. I'm. Off. Duty." Her hands and feet illuminate with the familiar glow, readying her for battle.

"What an exquisite courtyard you have here, and what beautiful trees." Philia calls out to the guardsmen as her weapon materializes with a bright azure light. "Not very many get to perish in such luxury."

"Stop being useless idiots, and fucking kill them!" Sario commands as he rises to his feet, gripping at his long sword.

__________________________________________

You now have control of both Elewyn and Ruby:

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 28

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

One guard is poised to strike at Aloé with a heavy mace, as the other looks ready to lunge at Ruby with his sword. Due to your spell, Sario remains out of range for an attack this round.

>Write in movement/actions for Elewyn and Ruby.
>>
>>5003449
Elewyn
>Get Dawn's Blessing up

Ruby
>Gore
>Slash into him, sword or no sword. You don't need a lot of momentum to scratch a naked man up with Carver
>>
Heyo /qst/, I'm going to take a slight pause in the quest to communicate some thoughts with you.

It seems that participation has relaxed a good bit the past few days with getting enough votes for a definitive choice taking longer. If it weren't for the combat, this wouldn't be too much of an issue, I would instead focus on writing fewer, but more lengthy updates. Often, on my end, I find myself ready to write/answer questions, but waiting for posts.

Life does happen, and this could a temporary lull. It could be the updates not being properly announced. Or, it could be interest waning. Not sure.

If it's the first, then we can always wait it out and keep going. The second can also be easily addressed with something like a twitter account, but the third is obviously more difficult to tackle.

Regardless of what it is, I will do what I can to facilitate the quest proceeding. But before I do anything hasty, I'd like to know if any of you have thoughts on this. Be as candid as you'd like, I'm a big boy or at least I'd like to think.

Still, I thank all of you still participating/reading, and for letting me tell this story.
>>
>>5003556
Supporting
>>
>>5004093
From what I've seen open votes tend to slow down things usually.
>>
>>5004142

This is very true from what I've seen in other quests as well. Adding more laid out choices for story beats will be something I'll work on. About implementing that into combat, perhaps displaying the skills available to each character, but I don't know how cluttered that would appear. I'll have to do some testing.
>>
>>5004093
I'm not to sure about qst these days, but I think part of it is that Character Actions are described as distinct skills. That's useful in MMOs, but in quests it's one step longer in figuring out what we can have the characters do.

For Elewyn it's not so bad since I've been improvising the wind spell beyond the default description, but Ruby spends 3 different skills to say "she swords good" without me really knowing if she knows how to clash or how her aggressive style works on creatures that know how to block.
>>
>>5004154

I see, I see. This seems to be partially a matter of point of reference. I want to emphasize fragility and high evasion for these characters (Aloé being the exception), but this has to be relative to something. I've included the base stats that I have for the desert raptor as a start, and I will also release the stats of enemies for every successful encounter. Note the high physical amplification and HP.

Skill development is something that I had in mind for this quest, especially as means to flesh out growth. This was going to come soon, but I think I will bump it to occur even sooner, at least partially. Ruby will likely be first, as she is thematically less experienced, and has been a POV character already. Clashing for her is plenty viable, she's not as fragile as Elewyn, and can be healed in a pinch. That said, she would rely more on her evasion for damage mitigation. Her high offense would help with any blocks, and while either character or enemy is blocking their offensive capabilities would be limited for that round.


(Past Encounter Desert Raptor):
HP:40
Stamina:20
Physical Amplification:15
Physical Resistance: 9
Evasion:5
>>
>>5004093
I still have interest in the quest, but I live in a different timezone. You update mostly when I sleep, and most mornings I don't get on my computer before I leave home. So I can only answer in a very short window in the morning or in the evening, provided there even is a vote going on.
I've been reluctant to post on mobile due to not wanting to screw with my id, and even if I did, timezones would still be an issue.
>>
>>5003556
Mostly support, provided Gore is Gnaw. Bleeding OP, pls don't nerf.
Also because I assume we can't maneuver to Wide Slice both guards, given Aloé's presence and the fact that one is technically blocking us.
>>
Rolled 10, 2 = 12 (2d10)

>>5004196
Thanks for keeping up with the quest despite the timezone difference. The weekend times will hopefully bleed a bit more into when you're awake.

And thank you all for your thoughtful input, I will keep going trying to address the issues you brought up.

>>5003556
>>5004140
>>5004209

>Elewyn to use Dawn's Blessing
MP Cost: 3


>Ruby to use Gnaw on adjacent guard.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 3 (1d4)

>>5004268
Gnaw Connects!
Rolling for Ruby's bleed chance on guard
1d4, 4 = no bleed
>>
Rolled 10, 5, 6, 7 = 28 (4d10)

>>5004273
Bleed will be active.

Rolling for guards actions.
Rolling 2d10 (first 2 dice) for attack on Aloé (CR 7)
Rolling 2d10 (last 2 dice) for attack on Ruby (CR 11)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5004279

You decide that protecting Ruby and Aloé from the guards experienced hits is the most prudent course of action. You evoke your aura of protection before they have a chance to strike.

With a swift lunge forward, Ruby crouches and introduces the nearby guard to Carver by raking its teeth along his flank, shredding the skin like paper, and causing a deep bleed to trail down his side.

In response, he growls in pain and thrusts his sword forth at the small assailant, managing to slice a long cut into her shoulder before she can slide back. Ruby winces in pain, but the wound doesn't impede her movements.

Philia covers Ruby as she regains her stance with a sudden arrow, sinking into the guard's thigh. He falters in agony for a moment, before barely managing to compose himself with gritted teeth.

Aloé is immediately greeted with a flurry of blows from the guard's heavy mace. She does her best to time her shield to deflect the strikes. Seeing an opening, she returns the favor with an expert thrust to the guard's shoulder. Before she can press the advantage, her enemy rallies with a heavy blow directly to her hip. Her blade retreats as she repositions.

Sario finally catches up and glares directly at you. "I'm going to kill you and your friends. But first, I'm going to rape all your holes, and the holes I stab into you!" His heavy sword at the ready, eyes wild with anger, he seems intent on pursuing you first. He's positioned right next to his subordinates.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 25

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 19
MP: 2

The guard that Ruby exchanged blows stands very unsteadily, he wouldn't be able to withstand another round of attacks like that. The other guard, while injured still appears to be in good fighting shape. Sario is intent on attacking Elewyn, and his rage fuels his expert hand.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>5004354
Alright. Can Ruby step in front of Sario to slice him and the unsteady guard ? Could she also reasonably get the third guy ?
Let's also have Elewyn use Sundowning on Sario to try and help Ruby get her strike off. Also takes the biggest threat out of the fight, hopefully long enough.

The aura is nice, but it isn't enough to be worth wasting a turn maintaining.
>>
>>5004425

Ruby could make that move, and reach the 3rd guard as well. But just so you know, that would put her in range of additional attacks from the guards (assuming they are unimpeded)
>>
>>5004449

Dropped trip once again from posting in other threads.
>>
>>5004453
Okay. Then how about:
Ruby hits all 3.
Elewyn Sundowns Sario
Aloé attack her guard.

If successful:
Wounded guard routed or about to be.
Sario blinded.
Last guard tangled by Aloé.

Would that work like that ? Though I guess Sario/Last guard could still hit Ruby before Elewyn and Aloé get a turn.
>>
>>5004465

It definitely could work like that, provided the rolls work out for Ruby. Also, your team takes priority in terms of actions to help balance fragility (for most cases)
>>
>>5004487
Very well. I'll go with that and stop for tonight (and pray the dice gods before going to sleep).
>>
>>5004354
Elewyn Sundowns the leader

Ruby does a wide swing to hit them all at once
>>
Rolled 1, 7 = 8 (2d10)

Just got off a busy night, but ready to get writing.

>>5004494
>>5004688
>Elewyn to cast Sundowning on Sario
MP Cost: 10

>Ruby to use Wide slice on all three guards
Stamina Cost: 7
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8 for guards, No CR for Sario, stunned)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: (5+7)*0.75= 9
>>
Rolled 10, 5 = 15 (2d10)

>>5004931
Wide swing connects to all three enemies.

Rolling for guard action.
Rolling 2d10 for attack on Aloé (CR 7)

>Writing Outcome
>>
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>>5004932

Taking on three armed guards is a risk that you need to mitigate. Not to mention that despite his lascivious nature, you can tell that Sario is a veteran of numerous battles.

To you it's worth the personal mana cost, so you point your staff at his chest and run the incantation in your head. Flickers of light form around him like a swarm of fireflies, and he slumps on his feet. You can sense the impotent frustration building in him from how you've managed to keep him from the battle so far.

Seizing on the opportunity that having all three enemies so conveniently lined up provides, Ruby shifts one thigh into the air, and slams it hard into the ground to twist into a brutal arc. It carves into all three guardsmen. The nearest falters to his knees as gore begins to slip from his opened belly. He's barely able to keep up the fight from his profuse bleeding, but clutches his weapon for one final strike.

To ensure that he won't be an issue an longer, Philia looses a final arrow into his upper chest. He slips from the impact, and falls hard onto his back with a thud that resounds into the courtyard. He's finished.

Sario takes a wide cut to his chest, adding a fresh red line to the many scars that brazenly show.

Ruby's arc terminates in the final guard's left shoulder, slicing into an already wounded area. His arm droops uselessly, and he slips away to turn his attention to the young Elin relentlessly pressing him with quick slices and thrusts.

As the guard repositions, Aloé pursues tenaciously slipping in quick cuts while deflecting potentially devastating mace blows. However, the guard fakes another heavy blow from overhead, but shifts instead to catch Aloé square in her stomach with an impact that immediately stops her attacks. You immediately check to see if she needs rescue, but with gritted teeth she stands firm. A thin trickle of blood leaks from her mouth, as she's beginning to feel the effects of the hits.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 15

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 12
MP: 2

One guard lies dying on the ground, unable to fight any further. The other presses Aloé after his last attack, causing her to fall back slightly. Sario remains stunned, but you sense he unleash his expert fury as soon as he's able.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>5004954
Elewyn
>Heal duty

Ruby
>Sweep Sario's legs, knock him on the ground to gang up on at your leisure
>>
>>5004967
Elewyn
>Heal Aloé

Ruby
>Gnaw Sario

I'm glad that worked. Let's see about the 50% on Sundowning, though.
>>
Rolled 1 (1d2)

>>5004967
>>5004992

I can synthesize these actions. First off, rolling to see if Sundowning on Sario continues. Rolling 1d2, 2 = Sundowning continues for upcoming round
>>
Rolled 2, 2 = 4 (2d10)

>>5005049

Alright, Sundowning ends. Sario will have an action this round. For our team:

>Elewyn to cast Healing Light on Aloé
MP Cost: 6
Healing Range: Magical Amplification/[Range:6-4]; (Will roll 1d3 to determine healing, 3 = greatest heal.)

>Ruby to target Sario's legs with Gnaw, specifically for knockdown.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit, CR 13 for knockdown)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 2 (1d3)

>>5005050

Ruby's hit will not connect.

Rolling for healing light, 1d3
>>
Rolled 3, 2, 4, 10 = 19 (4d10)

>>5005053

Healing Light HP recovery equals: 20/5 = 4

Enemy Rolls:
Rolling 4d10 for attacks on Aloé (CR 7, first two dice)
and for attack on Elewyn (CR 15, last two dice)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5005060

With the amount of abuse that Aloé has taken from the guards heavy mace, you turn your attention toward aiming healing light toward her. The light washes over her and soothes her wounds. She may still be bruised, but the trickle of blood from her mouth stops for the moment. With renewed vigor, she bashes a spiked shield into the remaining guardsman stomach. Despite his attempts to club his way free, Aloé deflects each hit with her sword, twisting her magically produced spikes into his entrails.

He barely has enough time to vomit blood and bile over his own chest before Philia sinks an expert arrow through the side of his neck, downing him instantly.

Through sheer anger and force of will, Sario finally breaks free from his stupor, and begins a direct pursuit for your head.

Before he dashes far, Ruby slides towards his legs with Carver's devastating teeth pointed outward. Unfortunately, Sario manages to leap over both your small companion and her large blade, and lands unscathed.

You carefully watch as he leaps again toward you, cleaving his heavy sword down in a hopes to carve you in half. With a single elegant sidestep, you easily evade his strike as it crashes brutally into the marble tile. He glares at you with equal measure anger and surprise, which you return with a smug smirk. "Good try..."

It only takes a moment for Sario to understand that cutting you down won't be as easy as he first thought. He glances back at his fallen companions, and at yours ready for their next strike. With a deep breath he steadies himself. "What the hell are all of you after?... Ah, who fucking cares. When I win I'll beat that out of you, and I get to rape all of you. If that ain't motivation enough..." His laugh bellows through the blood stained courtyard.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 9

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 6
MP: 2

Sario remains the last enemy standing, and besides the long cut on his chest, looks in good fighting form. He eyes all four of you equally, contemplating his next target.


>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
This will be the last update for tonight. More to come tomorrow, so keep on voting. Have a good day/night, everyone
>>
>>5005099
Not enough mp for stun, huh.

Can we use a weakened Gale between Ruby and Philia? Not enough to push a human, but enough to trip if he pursues the archer while also giving us distance.
>>
>>5005160

The strength of the Gale can definitely be adjusted as you suggest. However, Gale won't completely cancel his velocity vector unless he's charging directly at Elewyn/her staff. In the other case a trip may occur, but he will still be moving forward for a time.
>>
>>5005181
That's fine, Philia can take care of the rest from there. As long as he can't do a tackle to escape being flanked.
>>
The vote is still ongoing. I'd want 1 or 2 more people to post before proceeding with more writing
>>
>>5005435
>>5005160
Way too fucking tired tonight, so I'm just supporting. I'd also like Ruby to try Gnaw again since he's not bleeding.
Besides that Phillia has been on point with her shooting so far.
>>
Rolled 3, 8, 8, 4 = 23 (4d10)

>>5005160
>>5005571
Moving forward with a combination of these two:

>Elewyn to cast Stellar Gale to disrupt Sario's movement
MP Cost: 2
Rolling 2d10 (first two) to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit)

>Ruby to pursue Sario with another Gnaw attempt.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 (last two) to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 3 (1d4)

>>5005602
Both Stellar Gale and Gnaw will connect
Rolling for bleed chance 1d4, 4= no bleed
>>
Rolled 9, 8 = 17 (2d10)

>>5005609
Finally rolling 2d10 for Sario's attack (CR 11+2 = 13, for stumble)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5005611

Without warning, Sario pivots his focus from you to Ruby. His longsword held to his side in a mad dash, he aims to cleave your red-headed companion instead. She has much less experience dodging dangerous or even lethal hits, so you immediately evoke a gust a wind to impede his charge. With careful aim, you manage to clip one of his legs. Unbalanced, he begins to tumble, but with sword still at the ready to strike.

Ruby aims to meet his charge halfway and rushes forth with Carver’s teeth outstretched. Its teeth rake against the front of his thighs, easily peeling away the skin to reveal the pink flesh underneath. At the same moment. Sario barely manages to twist his sword in such a way that it awkwardly catches Ruby from belly to chest. The slice is weakened, but her blouse tears open with a stream of blood, as both Ruby and Sario slam into the ground. She cries out in serious pain, and then shakily begins to push herself up.

Sario coming away less scathed of the two begins to rise to his feet quickly, but finds an arrow embedded into his upper back before he can even fully stand. Vitriol and blood spills forth from his mouth, but he still presses on to attack Ruby once again. One unsteady step is a far as he gets before Aloé tackles him square in the lower back with her spiked shield. With heavy breaths, she grapples with him striking blow after blow with the pommel of her sword, in a desperate attempt to keep him from reaching Ruby.
__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 7

Ruby:
HP: 1
LP: 6
Stamina: 0
MP: 2

Sario slowly claws his bloody and battered body forward, intent on finishing an injured and exhausted Ruby. He wouldn’t be able to take much more abuse before he’s dead. Ruby starts to push herself off the ground, but she’s out of breath. Thinking on what you want to do him before his demise, you consider the next course of actions.

>Philia to finish him off with one last arrow.

>Aloé to attempt to stop him by constricting his neck.

>Stand in between him and Ruby, press his head to the ground with your shoe.

>Write in.
>>
>>5005733
>>Aloé to attempt to stop him by constricting his neck.
can't we just blow him away with a full power gale to bleed out?
>>
>>5005899
Yup, that's definitely an option.
>>
>>5005899
>>5005932
Well do both I guess, the push gets distance, while aloe either defends Ruby or pins Sario if she gets caught up in the gale.
>>
Votes still open!
>>
>>5005950
Yeah, he's on a 5 turn timer now, assuming he has taken a tick of poison. A successful gale will force him to take more, and get pelted by Philia.
>>
Finally a lull in work, so I can get back to writing.

>>5005950
>>5006576
These choices don't require any rolls, so writing!
>>
>>5006758

In spite of Aloé's efforts, Sario continues to drag his beaten body toward Ruby intent on finishing her off. To ensure that doesn't happen, you unleash a strong gale of wind from your staff. Both Aloé and Sario slam into one of the ornate pillars, far from Ruby. Their weapons clatter to the ground as well.

Not relenting, Aloé rushes to lock her arm tightly around his neck. He claws deep into her arm, drawing blood. She holds. He punches hard into the her cheek. She holds. He gurgles violently and foamy blood spews forth from his clenched teeth. She holds.

You quietly approach the fallen weapons, and switch your staff for his longsword. Despite Ruby's blood staining it, you can tell it's quite well made. Someone has a great interest in keeping him well-equipped.

Making a show of dragging the sword along the marble tile, the sharp scraping accompanying his gurgling death rattle, the heavy smell of blood, the deep purples and reds of the spilled viscera, all of it brings back memories of terrible battles long past. By the time you reach him, his bloody and beaten body has hardly any noise left to emit. You motion for Aloé to let go.

She releases him and he falls chin first to the ground, teeth smacking hard against each other. His heavy bleeding has drained him of all but the very last vestiges of his strength.

"What a peculiar idea of a fun night." You take little time to rest the tip of his own sword against the base of his eye socket.

"Fuck. You." He sputters out with pure honest fury.

Fine, let those be his final words.

"Here...enjoy this hole." With a quick thrust, you plunge his sword through his eye, and let it come to rest embedded deep within his skull. As you let it fall to the ground, it carves a new gory opening that leaks the contents of head.

Taking only a moment to sigh, you quickly walk over to Ruby and begin the process of healing her wounds.

"He dead?" She winces as her wounds close.

You nod. "Thoroughly."

She laughs in spite of her pain, and pulls her greatsword close to her. "Wish I could've."

She passes out immediately after that.

"You fight much better with that than a bow..."

[1/2]
>>
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>>5006876

~

After finishing up with Ruby and covering up the unsightly corpses, the four of you retire to the inside of the villa. The interior is no less impressive with wide open halls that let the warm night breeze flow through. A lot of attention and effort has gone into making this a hidden oasis among the sandy town of Tulufan. It's wealth of paintings, comfortable furniture, a wide blue pool, and carved marble interior would stick out obviously, especially high on the hill it rests if it weren't for its imposing walls. The gates that protect all this wealth are well secured, leaving you comfortable to spend the night here. Meanwhile, your three companions have taken to passing the night in their own way here, while you collect a thick stack of possibly noteworthy documents from the office of whoever owns this hideout. Meticulous records, of trades, meetings, and agreements sit in your hands as you return to the courtyard to fetch that delicious liquor you had earlier.

The night is very late, but there's much reading to be done to get through all of these papers. Ten years have past since you started investigating this mess. Alys...and who knows how many others have been lost. These slavers are connected to it all, and you intend to find out how.

"I don't presume to know more than you." Philia calls out as you head back into the villa. "But, I believe that you would benefit from a break."

You lift the bottle of liquor higher. "That's why I have this."

She crosses her arms. "Come now, Elewyn...I'm well aware of the importance of this assignment, but the papers will still be there tomorrow." She sighs. "You three come to be in a luxurious villa, and you don't make the most of it. Ruby, in spite of her injuries was discussing something about coming up with a new combat technique. Aloé, bless her heart, was insisting on burying our fallen enemies. How's this, you go help one, and I'll help the other. Once that's done, all four of us come back to the pool to swim, talk, and enjoy ourselves? Please?" She gives a coy smile.

>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Ruby."

>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."

>"I'll pass. I'm going to look through these papers, so that you three can enjoy yourselves."

>Write in.
>>
>>5006879
>"I'll pass. I'm going to look through these papers, so that you three can enjoy yourselves."
>>
10 years is a long time, even for one who nears 600. If this is the closest she’s come to progress, I doubt she would be willing to take a break.
>>
>>5006958
You do bring up a very valid point, and I think it'd be a good opportunity to note that Elewyn's perception of the flow of time is the same as a normal humans. So, indeed, 10 years is a long time. But by that same merit a night is still a night.

Not at all disagreeing with you, just wanted to give equal reasoning behind the choice options. I do really appreciate your explanation.
>>
>>5006879
>>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."
we can take the papers if we have to run, but if there's anything among their personal effects it would take too long if we don't search now.
>>
>>5007206
>>5006879
>>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."
I figure Elewyn would still care about group morale, and there may well be something of value on the bodies.
>>
Combat is fun and all, but I'm looking forward to switching gears for a bit for some dialogue/story choices. (But, who knows when it might switch back.) I think I'll try to make the updates posted today lengthier, as I mentioned I would earlier.

>>5007206
>>5007299
Helping Aloé with the bodies

>Writing
>>
>>5007363

Despite your insistence that it'd be taken care of in the morning, Aloé is already trying to deal with the bodies, and all by herself. The papers are enticing given how long you've traveled and searched for leads. But, you figure that after helping your companions make sure that they don't wear themselves out, you'll still be able to read through them tonight.

You raise the papers and the liquor. "I'll find a safe place for these, then help Aloé with the bodies. See to it that Ruby doesn't injure herself"

"Naturally. We'll look forward to both of you joining us when you're done." Philia marches off with glee.

Once out of sight, you sneak and search for an appropriate place to stow away the stack of documents. Perhaps one may call it paranoia, but you take the extra abundance of caution to hide the papers in a closet, well out of sight. You intentionally take the bottle of liquor back to the office where the papers originated, and leave it there. Far too much has gone into getting you here for you to slip up now. Coin, time, and risk were all invested for this mission. To that end, it would be helpful if the slavers had some silver hidden away here. There will be time tomorrow to search for that.

Heading into the courtyard, you can already hear Aloé straining with something, and sure enough upon descending the stairs, you catch her already dragging one of the guards onto a cloth sheet. It was the fellow that took the arrow to the neck. She's already tactfully removed the arrow from his body, and tugs his legs with all her strength, stopping often to catch her breath and readjust. The body is easily twice her weight, but she persists in the way she always does.

She spots you as she lowers the legs once again. "Ah, Elewyn!" She huffs, out of breath. "Don't worry, I'll make sure that the gate is closed when I head out."

[1/?]
>>
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>>5007839

You sigh as you cross the courtyard toward her. "I know better than to tell you to wait to the morning now."

"Ah...Eh. Uh... Thanks for that." She lets out a small bashful laugh.

"Here..." You grab one of the fallen guard's legs. "It would take you all night at that rate."

She pauses in surprise as you adjust your grip, but then quickly gives a confident nod. "Thanks!" She pulls the body with renewed vigor. "I was thinking of burying them here...in the courtyard...near the trees...but I figured that...someone might dig them back up...and who knows what after that." Her words punctuated with each straining tug.

Aloé makes a good point. There’s no way that you’d be able to bury the bodies here without making an unsightly mess in the manicured greenery of the courtyard. The owners would likely exhume the bodies, and probably let the desert wildlife take care of the rest.

“Then, we’ll take their bodies down the hill, and off the main path. Search them, clean them off, and bury them there.” You announce as you reach the gate and begin working it open.

This time she gives a solemn nod as she seems to be remembering the fact that this was a living, breathing body just a few hours ago. “Was it alright…for us to do this?”

You turn back after getting the gate open, and motion for her to focus on the task at hand. “That’s not an easy question to answer. What’s alright would be different for me and you, I’m sure.”

The body scrapes against the gravel path as you clear the gate. Aloé closes the gate and the two of you resume your task under the desert night sky.

“Yes, in that moment we had to fight back otherwise we would’ve wished ourselves dead. Yes, they were enforcers of a practice that you and I both find horribly repugnant. Yes, they abused their positions of power to terrorize and harm those who couldn’t fight back.” You stop to catch your breath. “But no, we didn’t have the authority to be the ones to sentence and execute their deaths.”

She wipes a stained hand across her brow, clearly deep in thought. “So, it wasn’t justified? What we did? Was it unjust?”

“Yes, but if that’s the case then let’s at least be consistent and forgot about burying their bodies…” You reply a little frustrated. You take a breath to calm yourself. “Listen Aloé, I’m not going to lose any sleep because of what happened to them.”

Plenty of other things to do that already.

“I’ve seen regimes come and go, and the laws they deemed justified along with them. At one time, we would’ve been rewarded for doing what we did. So, it doesn’t matter to me if the suffering these men caused was just by these laws, and what we did unjust. I don’t care. They caused suffering for our kind. They would’ve continued to cause suffering our kind. My perspective might be unsustainable for everyone to carry, and therefore unjust, but I’m alone now, so pick up that leg…”
>>
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>>5007845

For some time, the two of you drag the body with only straining breathes breaking the silence of the dark night. You find a small clearing off the main path to the villa, concealed by tall shrubs, and settle the body there.

Aloé finally breaks the silence. “I think I would’ve wanted to find a way to arrest them instead… I let myself get angry...and I don’t know. I did something that I feel like I both should have and shouldn’t have done… I don’t think I could discard everything our laws are trying to maintain, and I will always believe in the creed of the royal guard. But right now, I’m glad that we’re safe. I’m glad that they’re not going to hurt anyone else. I need to think about all of it, but you’re not alone, Elewyn.”

You smirk and begin walking off to retrieve the next body. “Oh, and does that mean you’re here to arrest me?”

“Do you think I could?” She asks as she rushes to catch up to you.
“Not a chance.” You immediately shoot back.

“Hmmmmmmmmm? And what if I grab you like this!-“ She suddenly tries to grab you from behind, but you easily duck and evade, causing her to slip to the ground. “Owwwww.”

You laugh as you extend a hand to help Aloé to her feet. You know exactly how capable she is, but in this moment you can’t help but be curious as to how she came to be a royal guard recruit. “I warned you, you know.” You brush pieces of gravel from her hair. “I want to know now, how an Elin came to be in the royal guard. How you came to be a royal guard trainee.”

“Aha!” She lunges again at your stomach, which you don’t bother to dodge. She laughs as she catches you, but then suddenly stands and clears her throat, remembering her position. “Ahem, yeah, right I can tell you about that….”

When the two of you reach the courtyard it’s the subordinate guard’s turn. You have Aloé fetch a bedsheet, which you wrap around his midsection to contain the spilling viscera. Once again, the two of you set off dragging the body to the outskirts of the villa.

She takes a moment to gaze upon the fallen guard’s face. This one she didn’t have to fight. She’s quiet, thinking, remembering. Flashes of sadness and contentment wash over her, before she finally speaks. “I remember myself, young and eager. After my studies, I wanted to leave Pora Elinu, the same as everyone else, you know? You spend all that time learning, being in nature, you get bored. So, just like everyone else, I just left one day.”

Most do it without saying a word. They’re just gone. It’s a strange instinct for your kind, to simply wander. No matter how many centuries pass, that’s always been the same. Well, for most of you…
>>
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>>5007849

“It wasn’t long before I was in Velika. Ahh, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where to go, but I stayed there. I don’t know why; you know? Maybe I thought it’d be fun? I had heard that Velika had so many more things to do than Pora Elinu” The two of you stop again to open gate before making your way through. “It was hard…” She says softly. “Work was hard to find, so I did all sorts of things. Courier, stable attendant, street cleaner. The pay was bad, and I think I was paid worse than the humans. So, food…. Food, Food. So many years went by that was all I could think about. I was so hungry. “She laughs bitterly, she pauses to catch her breath, eventually looking ready to continue, but then crouches down hugging her knees. “I don’t want to talk about that part too much, but a lot of other bad things happened then too.”

You stop and crouch down near her. “Then don’t. I understand, really…”

It’s not the same for them as when you first went to Velika. At that time, every fighting pair of hands was welcomed with open arms. Even if you couldn’t fight there was always a means to secure food and shelter.

After much sniffling, but to her credit, no crying, she picks herself up and continues with the laborious task. “Cause of luck, I was able to find work in a bakery. I was good at it. I didn’t mind the early mornings because it was fun to bake, but I was hungrier than ever. They watched me like a hawk to make sure that I wouldn’t sneak any food.”

“I can understand why you might want to work there in the first place, but why would you stay there if they couldn’t even feed you?” You pause your tugging and stare at her.

“The smells…they couldn’t keep that away from me, and I will never forget how strong they seemed to me at the time.” She smiles to herself.

It seems more of a punishment than anything being forced to work in a bakery under such hunger, but the tone in her voice lets you know that she looks upon that time fondly somehow. She's quite different than you...

The two of you slide the body next to his companion and make your way back to retrieve Sario’s body.

“Well, since you’re focusing on it, I’m assuming that being at this bakery led you to where you are now?” You ask as you set off.

“Yup! One day…a normal day at work at first, but everything turned upside down.” Aloé’s voice is clear with excitement. “Princess Cecelia and her escort of royal guards came into our bakery wanting to sample our food. Our food! My food! I peeked to see what the commotion was about, and she was so beautiful, I thought I was going to cry. Her flowing blue and white dress, the gold trim, and her jewels… Her guards, Sir Elliot and Sir Klaus, they stood regal, unshakable, tall and strong. All of it, it was like seeing color for the first time.”
>>
>>5007855

The two of you stop underneath the light of the stars to finish, giving this part of her tale the time it deserves.

“The first thing The Princess asked was if we let customers make their own pastries like a bakery across the city.” She shakes her head with a gleeful grin. “We had never done that before! But in that moment it was ‘Of course! Of course, that’s our specialty, Your Highness,’ from the owner. I immediately cleared our prep table and cleaned what I could.” She rapidly motions with her hands the act of moving objects and wiping down counters. “Her Highness, and the bakery owner come to the back, and I’m standing there like an idiot. Then finally I remember how to bow, The Princess smiles at me, and then we get started.” She holds up one finger. “A simple apple tart, that was all that was requested.”

The two of you rest for a moment against the walls of the villa.

“I helped make them dozens of times before, but that would be the very last one, you know? Everything was coming along fine, I was fetching the ingredients, attending to the royal guard to make sure that they didn’t want anything, making sure that any customers were promptly handled while the owner was helping Her Highness actually make the tart. Finally, it goes into the oven, and then we promise to have it delivered the second it finishes baking. Everyone was smiles and bows, all until The Princess scoops up a little bit of spilled sugar that went into the tart.”

“It’s salt.”

“I don’t know how it happened, the owner and I must’ve been too distracted by Her Highness to pay attention. But, I was left alone in the back… the owner apologizing like crazy. I remember wanting to shrivel up and die in that moment. I knew I was going to lose my job there, if not just be beaten death. But on top of all of that, I was always going to be that idiot Elin that couldn’t even get a tart right.

“Surely that wasn’t it then?” You press, wanting to understand how such an unfortunate circumstance could lead to her becoming a royal guard trainee.

“Uhhhh…well.” She hesitates. “Then I lost my cool in that moment. I think it was all of the stress of what happened, and the hunger…definitely the hunger, because I started eating every pastry I could find. I stole them with no remorse and stuffed them right in my greedy mouth. Everything, and way more than I would’ve ever been able to eat normally. I remember crying, hard. Then…somehow I grabbed flour and was trying to shovel that in my mouth too.”
>>
>>5007861

“Flour?” You interject.

“It didn’t go well, I started coughing and gagging and crying all at the same time. I couldn’t catch my breath, then I puked horribly all over myself and the floor of bakery. I was on the floor like that, gasping for air, hoping that someone would seriously just kill me.” She speaks on as if she can see the scene unfolding right before her eyes. “Then, I was grabbed…and then held, and then cradled. I open my eyes, and the first thing I saw was her eyes. I remember looking up her and seeing her deep blue eyes, and thinking that I actually might have died. Then I saw her wonderful dress covered in my vomit and flour and all I could say was ‘I’m so sorry. I was so hungry.’ and I couldn’t stop sobbing, and trying to escape… But she held me close to her chest.”

You let the quiet sit between you for a while before you speak up. “So, did you die?” You ask, trying to lighten the mood.

She laughs and shakes her head. “No… I was in her care for several days after that. That’s when I asked if I could be part of her royal guard. The Princess said no, so I asked again the next day. She said no again. I then went to Sir Elliot and asked if I could be a trainee. He said no, much less politely. Then I asked again the next day. He said no again. So then…I challenged him to a duel.”

“To which I’m sure he said no.” You laugh lightly.

“Yes. Until the fifth time I asked.” She stands up and begins heading back to the courtyard to finish the job. “Even without a weapon, he thrashed me almost instantly. But, I got up. He thrashed me again, that time uppercutting me square in the jaw.” She makes the motion with her fist. “So, I got up again. After about the eighth time, he called me a ‘the absolute biggest little idiot,’ much less politely, and said to come to training the next morning.”

“Then we met two years after that.” You add while looking down at Sario’s defeated corpse. You’re sure that he died as violently as he lived. “Thank you for telling me that story. Even back then, you were a tenacious one, weren't you? I’m sure his story would’ve been less noble.”
>>
>>5007884

“Hmmm, ah, yeah…” She agrees as the two of you look at the gore of his remains. “Despite that, I think, given the right circumstances he could’ve redeemed himself. Our laws might be imperfect, I still think they allow for fair redemption to occur. I’m here, and many of the past royal guard had a rough history. People just need to be given that chance, to be held when no one in their right mind would want to hold them…Even someone like him deserves that, even with the terrible things that did and surely did.” She motions to Sario's corpse before she turns to you. “What do you think?”

Her words resonate in your mind along with the event of this night, and so many others. This matters to her, your response will matter to her.

>Evade the question. "It's getting late, why don't you find a shovel so we can finish this work?"

>Accept the premise. "Perhaps redemption may be possible for anyone, but if it comes down to life or death, you should still protect yourself."

>Deny the premise. "What he did was vile, and irredeemable. That sort of naiveté will get you hurt or worse one day.

>Write in.
>>
>>5007885
>Deny the premise. "People can change. But few have as many opportunities as us. As one approaches the latter stages of ones' lifespan, change becomes very rare indeed. He made his choice, and even we do not have an infinite time to entertain the choices of others.'
>>
>>5007885
>>Accept the premise. "Perhaps redemption may be possible for anyone, but if it comes down to life or death, you should still protect yourself."
>>
>>5007855
>“I don’t want to talk about that part too much, but a lot of other bad things happened then too."

The ration of pedos in this setting is becoming an increasing concern. I'm starting to see why there would be a demand for Elins on the black market.
Also, I saw wondered about it a few updates back, and I see now that there has been a significant time-skip since the intro. It's good we have an approximate timeline again.

>Deny the premise. "People can change. But few have as many opportunities as us. As one approaches the latter stages of ones' lifespan, change becomes very rare indeed. He made his choice, and even we do not have an infinite time to entertain the choices of others.'

Mostly irredeemable, especially after so long doing that job. People like that can still be useful as bait or as a source of intel, though. But that's not what she's asking for. Also, that comparison with herself, as well-meant as it may have been, was pretty shoddy. No matter what laws she follows, there are degrees of severity.
>>
>>5007885
>Evade the question. "It's getting late, why don't you find a shovel so we can finish this work?"
>>
>>5008121
+1 to this.
Just because people have a chance to change doesn’t mean they’ll use the opportunity. At what point does giving second chances evolve into letting evil go unpunished?
>>
>>5007885
>5008121
>5008323
>5008449
This.
>>
Morning all, thank you for taking the time to read through a very lengthy update, and for all the votes. I think I'll readjust for slightly shorter posts. I may have got carried away, but I really enjoyed writing Aloé's backstory, or at least a good part of it.

>>5008323
There indeed has been a significant timeskip, during which many busy hands were active.

>>5008121
>>5008323
>>5008449
>>5008499
We're choosing to deny the premise, and I'll do my best to work in your clarifications as well.

>Writing
>>
Wow, so a lot of things popped up today and interrupted the writing. But! The update is wrapping up and will be posted soon. Maybe ~30 minutes. Thank you as always for your patience.

It's not as long as I was first aiming.
>>
>>5008951

Given all that you've seen, given all that you've experienced, all that you know you can't agree with her proposal. You can't.

You shake your head firmly. "I disagree. We're all responsible for the actions and choices that we make, you, me, and him. The consequences of our choices are ours to bear as well. He chose his path. Despite his horrible character, he embraced his choices, and didn't once beg for mercy." You fetch his shirt that was crumpled nearby and wrap it around his head, doing your best to contain the spilled insides. "Every day he was given the chance to change, he fully understood the evil of his actions, and yet he persisted. He made his choice, and I chose not let the evil that he inflicted on our kind go unpunished." You stand as you finally manage to contain the gore that you spilled forth from his head. "And I will accept the consequences of my choices."

She returns your stare. "Then, I guess we'll both fight for what's important to us. I still disagree with you, but I don’t think I have the guts to change your mind right now… Don’t worry. I will see this mission until its end." She gives you a genuine smile before grabbing one of Sario's legs. "Ahh, sorry. It was a selfish question anyway."

You grab the other and begin tugging the final body. "Selfish?"

"I...uhhh....was asking more for me than him. Maybe." She mumbles under her tired breath.

Once you make out what she said, you immediately respond. "What you had to do compared to what he did isn't a good comparison at all. You deserve the opportunities you have, Aloé."

"You don't know everything..." Her voice barely audible.

Her turned glanced and taut shoulders give you the impression that she doesn't want to talk on this any further. So the two of you pull Sario's body in the cool silence of the desert night. Finally, all three bodies have been removed from the courtyard, Aloé returns with a set of shovels likely used to maintain the courtyards greenery.

Before you begin the task of cracking into the dry desert ground, you search through the clothes of the three fallen guards. Some useless handkerchiefs, an old, scribbled schedule on a piece of parchment, and a cork to a liquor bottle are all that you find in their pockets. However, as you begin to turn Sario's corpse over to lie on his back again, you spot something strange near the base of his neck.

[1/3]
>>
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>>5008974

A sigil of some kind, which at first you thought was a tattoo. But, it seems more appropriate to call a brand as it bulges slightly out of his skin like a scar. Its presence and location are strange enough, but upon your gaze falling upon it directly, it seems to glow a very faint orange color. You barely have enough time to commit the shape to memory before it fades away entirely.

A magic brand. It’s existence on him is concerning. You recall these used in certain cults to know the location of the marked individual. It’s certainly not anything a guard would want to have on them. But, one can be adhered to the body without notice, with a skilled enough hand. His well-crafted longsword was something you could see a wealthy slave master providing him as an enforcer, but a hidden magic brand? Why? There’s no way that a simple slave trader, no matter how well off would even know about it, let alone be able to conjure one. So then it must be whoever the slavers are dealing with? Perhaps, but you would need more concrete evidence. Most frustrating of all, is that you’ve seen that marking before, but you don’t remember where. It would’ve been a very long time ago, you sense.

“Something the matter?” Aloé glances over your shoulder, seemingly not catching what you just saw.

“No…I’m likely just getting weary.” You answer back without turning.

Moving his body now would be of no use. The brand is gone.

After one more search of his body, and finding nothing else, you angrily plunge into the hard earth with a shovel.
>>
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>>5008979

~

With a little more than an hour of work, the two of you were able to give the three guards some semblance of a grave. It’s far enough off the path to escape immediate notice, and close enough to the villa and the town to discourage disturbance from wildlife. After which, you met with Ruby and Philia to end the long night in the villa’s bathing pool.

You sink into the warm water, feeling the filth of the day draw away from your skin. Your three companions enjoy themselves around you, as you’re stuck trying to remember where you’ve seen that sigil before. The shape you obsessively trace again and again on the top of your thigh. You’re doing your best to carefully maneuver through hundreds of years of memories to search for where the image of sigil may lie. At least you were until a splash of water falls over you.

Philia leans forward with a mischievous grin. “Whatever is Elewyn going to do to return the favor?” She asks much to the delight of Ruby and Aloé.

She wants you to splash her back, of course. Your mind in that moment is almost too preoccupied to even bother. Somehow, thinking of the sigil, seeing the gleeful faces of your kind, their carefree laughter, the water surrounding you, it all reminds you of that time in the river with your first adventuring companions. More than five hundred years have passed since then, but you’re almost there again.

Immediately, you sense that the sigil is there somewhere, surely. But do you want to be?

Fueled by the sudden memory, you let yourself slide to the bottom of the pool. You let the memory play at as it did then. With the water pressing against your ears, and the dim light of the room smearing out into long strands of the overhead clouds from then. The laughter of your companions, surely thinking you’re just playing with them, morphing into indistinct voices of memory. You feel yourself touch against the bottom of the river. Just a little more…

What a terribly lame way to go out. An overpowering instinct to scream out in horror, but surely nothing will fill your lungs now except for water. ‘HEY!’ Ahh, congrats, you’ve really done it now. Drowning in a river when you should be celebrating the death of Kelsaik with all the others. A tangle of roots around your foot will be your downfall, even when you survived the fight with that corrupted avatar of a god, a tangle of roots…

Ahh, if this keeps up like this… But it’s only a little longer. If it means finding the answer to the sigil, surely it would be worth it. If it means seeing her again…

>Persist in the memory.

>It's not worth the risk. Get out of the water.

>Write in.
>>
>>5008984
>>It's not worth the risk. Get out of the water.
Yeah uh, please do not literally drown yourself in memories
>>
>>5008984
>It's not worth the risk. Get out of the water.
Ah, good old fashioned memory trips down memory lane. A shame no one else actually knows enough to help us jog our own memory.

We've already got Ruby who doesn't remember how old she is.
>>
>>5008984
>Persist in the memory.
>>
>>5008984
>>Persist in the memory.
if you've got it, then you've got it. if you let it slip away, it's gone
>>
We're currently tied, so I'll leave the vote open, and see where we're at when I get up in the morning. Have a good day or night, everyone
>>
>>5008984
>>Persist in the memory.
It's a pool. Unlike back then, we're not tangled in anything. If we don't remember now, we'll probably need to do it again at some point, this time in an actual river without friends right next to us. This is actually pretty safe, all things considered.
>>
>>5009063
>>5009132
>>5009244

Diving in!

>Writing
>>
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>>5009470

You can't let the memory slip away, now that you have it.

Enduring the horrid pressure building around your head and the dreadful powerlessness that comes with not being able to simply fill your lungs with air, you persist.

You don't remember the moment you emerged from the lake, nor anything that came before. Perhaps you should've been more grateful for that. The crushing stillness of these last moments go on forever, and as much as you wished someone would save you, now death seems merciful compared to this despair...

The blotchy bright patches of clouds illuminate and tease the infinite expanse of relief that you remain hopelessly separated from. The light...is nauseating now. The overglow invades your sight, almost blinding you. Time to close your eyes? Ahh, maybe so. A small shadow, with a stark halation of light around it...

Small hands push on your chest, over and over again. The green shore and distant blurry figures come fade into view. The coolness of the air rushing around you wicks away the droplets of water dripping from your frame, chilling you. Despite being on land again, the air...you can't breathe it. You look up at the small figure that saved you. Ahh, you know her. You've seen her before.

You grip her hand, the familiar delicate shape, which felt fragile even to you. The way the her darker complexion contrasted with yours. Being able to touch her again, to squeeze her hand.

"She's coming to... You! Get something to wrap around her. You! Go get her companions. Stop gawking, and get moving!"

The simple complete authority that she can command with such a soft voice. She always knew what to say in her straightforward, serious way.

Noire.

It’s been so long since you looked upon her.

You hate yourself for not being able to remember all the details of her face

Even this pale shadow of her true existence is so beautiful.

You're in bliss, you're so happy.

"You idiot, you absolute fool. You were born in water weren't you?"

"I tried. I'm sorry, I tried, for so long. I couldn't find-" Something begins to pull you out of her arms, but you resist as best you can.

"Stop blathering, and save your strength...Finally." She reaches for a wool blanket that a nearby figure. "Here, slide it under her. Despite her small frame, she easily pulls you up from the ground.

The knight’s armor creaks slightly as he obeys her order. Your head turns slightly to find what you came here for carved into the chestplate. The sigil. To think that it’d be long since you’ve seen it, but this far into the past is where it’d have to be. The emblem of an ardent faction of the high elves. If only she could appear to you in such a crystalline manner…
>>
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>>5009627

You’re tugged on again, but this time you have hardly the strength to resist. The portrait of memory begins to fade into nothingness. This happiness stripped away, and the eternal mourning fills the void once again.

“Ge…her…ou…water…”

Once again, there’s not enough time to say goodbye.

“Noire.” You call out one last time.

“What is it, Sunshine?”

“I love you.”

~

Bright light fills you field of view as you awake with an awful, pulsing headache. A cool sweat sticks to the entirety of your bare body as you sit up. Blinking in the light, it takes you only a moment to remember where you are, and you slide out of the unfamiliar bed. The sun in the sky suggests late morning, perhaps early afternoon. A nearby pitcher of water simultaneously seems revolting and alluring. Putting your feelings aside, you down what you can of the water, and think on what you saw of the sigil…

The high elves, their glory eternally dependent on magical energy, have long since left this plane. They felt the absence of the gods and their magic early and were quick to devise a means of escape. In the time that followed, you only heard the rare rumor of any stragglers, and most lacked any credibility. Now, no one besides a scant few know the name of their once great cities, as they've all been lost to the sands of time. To think that some sort of faction exists now, it almost seems impossible. Then again, such a use of magic now seemed just as unlikely. Does the improbability of such events cancel each other out?

Regardless, you’ve lost a good amount of time sleeping. You look around and find your clothes neatly folded nearby your bed.

You set out into the quiet halls of the villa and find your staff exactly where you left it late last night. If everything is still going according to plan, the others could very well be keeping a lookout in the town. You recall the papers that you hid last night as well.

>Set out to town to check on your companions

>Remain in the villa, and look over the documents you collected.

>Write in.
>>
>>5009639
>>Set out to town to check on your companions
>>
>>5009639
>Remain in the villa, and look over the documents you collected.
Don't want them to be wondering where we went.

Now, on the sigil and elves hanging around, we're still lacking heavily on intel, but one theory I've got is that a splinter group of extremist elves is staying around, hiring slavers to get them magical beings to sacrifice in a ritual to actually get the last few elves off this magicless (Literally) godforsaken plane.
>>
>>5009639
>Remain in the villa, and look over the documents you collected.
>>
>>5009639
>>Remain in the villa, and look over the documents you collected.
Don't want them to "disappear" when we leave/
I say that was worth it. Intel and lore, and only a small bit of drowning. Pretty good trade. Now let's not do that again.
>>
Hey everyone, just a quick update.

Looking ahead at an unusually busy week, but I'm going to do my best to not let that deter me, since I'm enjoying myself here. I think I'll aim for at least a daily update (a little longer in length hopefully). If something does come up that will keep me from meeting that goal, I'll communicate that here.

That said, thank you all for your readership.

I'll leave the vote open until the morning, just in case. Have a good day/night, wherever you may be.
>>
>>5009889
>>5009998
>>5010102
Staying put in the villa.

>Writing
>>
Finally back from a long day at work. Was able to write some along the way. Hoping to post the update in about 45-60 minutes!
>>
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>>5010834

The peace and quiet will help when studying over the documents and remaining here is best for when your companions eventually return. You’re not foolish enough to think that they won’t have some question as to what you were trying to accomplish last night. You’ll have to somehow convey the difficulty of searching through centuries of memories for one sigil of hundreds you’ve seen, and the importance of understanding said sigil.

Or will you?

This added revelation with the sigil suggests that the slave traders are dealing with magically adept individuals. A tracking sigil is nothing special, but far beyond the capabilities of any human you know. But high elves? Their adamant departure sent economic and political ripples throughout the entire world, and no one has seen a trace of any of them for over four hundred years. You have to be careful, you have to be careful who you rely upon.

You pace through the silent halls of the sunlit villa, with only the patter of your feet hitting the marble floors. The shadow you cast, currently your only companion, close and concentrated. You find the documents exactly where you left them. Shame that you’ve never been too keen on drinking alcohol while the sun is still up.

You head to the courtyard to check if anyone is there. Upon arriving you find only long beams of sunlight pouring in from the sky above. They fall conspicuously on the three dried, scarlet-colored stains of sticky blood resting on the floor there.

For a moment you ponder the need to scrub away the evidence of the battle that took place here. But would it perhaps serve you better if you left it? Surely this afterimage of carnage could not have been caused by four students on a simple field study. Any imagined marauders would appear quite a bit different from your entourage, so why take away from the fuel of such images. You still check to ensure no errant footprint betrays the disguise of the much smaller truth. Anything else of yourself inside the villa itself would be easily explained away as the left behind traces of a different kind of night companion. You return inside.

You settle into a low cushioned chair that easily surrounds your entire frame and begin going over the stack of papers. You sort through some more mundane purchases and land grants for the villa itself before you find something related to your investigation.

The first, an invoice. Dated nearly a year ago.

“Five oxen. Four males are strong for their breed, the other can still work.”
“Four cows. All not bad on the eyes, and within breeding age.”
“Two-thousand eight hundred and fifty silver coins for the oxen; three-thousand two hundred for the cows.…Value paid in full: coin.”
>>
>>5010881

Your past investigations lead you to know the common terminology in the slave trade. Oxen and cows refer to Amani males and females, respectively. The reasoning behind that is as simple as they are both horned creatures and large. Still…Strange. It goes against your expectations that Amani wouldn't be shipped oversea in a standard slave trade.

You find a note attached to this invoice dated a few weeks afterward.

“Physical attractiveness of no value, we will not pay extra for this. Hence forth, categorize cargo by the health description we discussed. -G”

Another invoice dated a month afterward.

“Six oxen. Three of the males are of good health and working quality. Three damaged males to be processed.
“Eight cows. Four females in good health and working quality. Also, within breeding age. Four damaged females to be processed.”
“Two-thousand seven hundred coins for the oxen, four-thousand eight hundred for the cows. Totaling seven-thousand five hundred silver coins…Value paid in full: bullion, gems, and coin.”

The use of “processed” is also a new term that you haven’t seen before in your investigations. You can imagine some less than savory meanings for it, but right now it would be speculative. You check the next invoice, dated about half a year ago.

“Three stallions. All are of good health and working quality.”

“Three mares. All in good health and working quality. Within breeding age.”

“One fawn. Very damaged in capture.”

“Four-thousand five hundred coins for the stallions. Six-thousand coins for the mares. Twelve-thousand coins for the fawn. Totaling twenty-two thousand five hundred silver coin. (The discount is an apology for the poor condition of the fawn.)…Value paid in full: bullion, gems, furs, liquor, and coin.

Stallions and mares are terms used for Castanic. The reasoning behind the choice being that they’re beautiful to look at, and either are “good for a ride.” Elin are fawn. Skittish and difficult to catch, and “you have to be careful not to break them if you ride them...”
>>
>>5010886

A note from the purchaser came a whole two months later.

“Immediately cease all capture of animals other than fawns. Health and chastity of no importance so long as they arrive to us alive. Will purchase unlimited quantity at thirty-thousand silver coin a head, if and only if all fawns are sold to us. We will know. -G”

Incredulity makes you stop at this point and stare out the nearby window. The price that someone is willing to put on you and your companion’s heads is astonishing as much as it is horrifying. Thirty thousand coins is what an average laborer would make in ten years, and they have the resources to afford as many of your kind as they want? What exactly are you dealing with here?

Another damn invoice, two months ago...

"Three fawn. Roughed up. Totaling ninety thousand silver coins...Value paid in full: weapons, bullion, ships, and coin."

Three Elin, gone across the sea to who knows what kind of fate...

You immediately pull out a letter to an unknown contact of the slavers, from a month ago. You quickly read this last document of importance.

“You can’t just pluck them off the street in Velika. That’d be easy money for a time, until we end up with our heads lopped off, no matter how far we run. That ain’t our turf. Stick to road ambushes and work with the dark fawn contact covering the forest. Ship the three you have for now.”

You stop. Then take a deep breath. This is far more extensive than you could have ever imagined, and what's worse is that these slave traders aren't involved with what happened to Alys. The timing of when they became active doesn't line up, and they aren't capturing anyone in Velika.

Dark fawn...

You hear the sounds of your companions' carefree chatting as they enter the courtyard.

>Quietly hide the letter, but leave all the other documents out in the open.

>Hide none of the documents. Tell them all of what you learned.

>Write in.
>>
>>5010895
>Hide none of the documents. Tell them all of what you learned.
If we fight any dark elin, they need to be prepared
>>
>>5010895
>>Hide none of the documents. Tell them all of what you learned.
"Preliminary assessment: we're fucked."
Get them (and us) up to speed.
>>
>>5010895
>Hide none of the documents. Tell them all of what you learned.
This is something everyone needs to be aware of
>>
Morning(here) everyone. Please expect a similar update situation to yesterday, as I'll be writing what I can in lulls with work.

>>5010899
>>5011259
>>5011278
Sharing all that we found.

>Writing.
>>
Hoo boy. Back home and finished with dinner. Will need an hour or so to finish what I have started throughout the day.
>>
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>>5011721

There are far more dangers lurking than you could have ever anticipated. This concerns your fate and those of your three companions. What exactly do these high elves and slavers have planned? What should you do about it? What of the unanswered question of what happened to Alys ten years ago, and the continued disappearances of Elin in Velika?

You stand and grab your staff. The air of the large study remains very still. Looking toward the roof of the study, you see a mosaic of light and shadow cast from the tall windows to your side. They span the entirety of the room, fading away as they stretch to the distance. Like the stars in the night sky, the shapes seem just as far out of reach to your hands.

What do you hope to find at the bottom of it all? An answer to the failings of your past? Is there one to be found?

If not that, then what of the others, all the others. Would you be the one to lead them through this?

She would. You know she would.

They need to be ready.

You leave the study and find your three companions walking down the hall seemingly heading toward the room that you slept in last night. They seem quite surprised when you appear suddenly.

“EH! Ah! I mean ah, nice to see that you’re awake, Elewyn.” Aloé smiles sheepishly with arms behind her back.

“Nice to see that you’re still alive, more like.” Ruby walks over toward you and scans your body. “No damage on the outside…Not brain damaged are you?”

“Would it make you sad that even if I were, I’d still be much smarter than you.” You’re quick to retort.

“Ugh, shut up. I’m not the one that nearly drowned in a bath.” Ruby shakes her head, and walks away from you and back toward your other two companions. “Still the same, I’d say.”

“Now now, there’s no need for the barbed quips.” Philia directs that first toward your red-headed companion, then you. Her azure eyes locking on scanning you intently. “

“Are you feeling alright? Not…tired?” Aloé steps up and asks. “…Sad?”

You pat the top of Aloé’s head. “I assure you all that I’m fine. I’m not naïve enough to say that I don’t understand your current attitude toward me, but I ask that you weigh that against what you know about me. Also, if I wanted to harm myself in that way, I could’ve very easily let Sario cut me in half, and that would’ve been the end of it.” You take your time to direct your words to each of your three companions. “Hell, why would I have even have bothered with this mission in the first place?...Here we are, and let me tell you that I intend to finish what we came here for. What I did last night was toward that end as well.”

“How would letting yourself drown help us?” Ruby crosses her arms. “If we weren’t there, you would’ve died.”
>>
>>5011771

You step toward her and look her directly in the eye. Ruby holds your gaze for only a few seconds before looking away, red-eared. “But you were there, all of you. And…” You turn, head back to the study, and motion for them to follow you. “I’ve been through that forest before.”

First, you take the time to time to explain the sigil that you spotted when you were taking care of Sario’s corpse.

“I couldn’t remember at the time where I had seen it before, I simply knew that I had.” You stop walking. “You’ll have to remember that I’m far older than all you combined, actually.” You sigh to yourself. “Philia’s still not quite one hundred fifty years, Aloé you’re barely past seventy, and you…”

Careful now.

“Well, however old you are Ruby, I cant imagine that it’s much more than Aloé.” You’re quick to follow up with. “The point is that after a few centuries, you have to do much more to recall what’s not necessarily important to you. Hence why I decided to act out the memory as I did.”

“A memory of you drowning?” Philia leans forward. “What exactly happened?”

You wave her off. “If that was important for the mission I would share it, but it was there that I saw the sigil on the chestplate of a high elf.”

“Hielf?” Aloé mouths the word again and turns to Ruby who simply shrugs.

“I remember being told when I was young that they were similar to humans in appearance stature, and size.” Philia explains to your other two companions. “But more delicate, and had notably pointed ears. They were also a prideful bunch, who were quite adept magical artificers.”

You nod in agreement. “That’s a decent summary. Their kind would have been more than capable of such a magical sigil. The only issue is that for the last four hundred years they’ve been missing from this planet.” Spotting Aloé’s and Ruby’s flabbergasted expressions you continue. “The how and why that happened can be explained in detail later, but ever since magic depleted from this world, they had little use for staying here.”

“So, it would be strange to see a sigil of their kind now, right?” Aloé speaks up.

You smile slightly at her words. “Exactly, and if one of the slaver’s associates have some mastery of magic, then interfering with their business becomes all the more dangerous. That sigil was one the more zealous high elves would carry on themselves. It was a symbol of intense pride that essentially indicated that they thought themselves better than the other races when they bore it. A high elf using that sigil either carries that zeal or inherited it. Unfortunately, that’s not even half of what I’ve learned…”
>>
>>5011772

The four of you head off again for the study. Once there, you motion for them to sit on some cushions while you organize the relevant documents. You find slight amusement in the starkly different manners in which they’ve decided to settle on the floor.

Aloé, straight backed and legs folded at her sides. Philia leans back on her palms, her legs daintily crossed and stretched out in front of her. And Ruby…lies flat on her back using the cushion more as a pillow, legs splayed wide.

Are you prepared to lead them through the new reality that they will have to live in? You will have to be. Before you break that news to them, it would be good to gather what they know first.

“Before I get into what I’ve learned from these papers, why don’t you brief me on what you found in your outing to town.” Your eyebrows raised, you pass your gaze over all three of them.

“Not much going on now.” Ruby chimes up. “Most people headed inside once the afternoon started getting close. Before that there was some guard activity, but they didn’t look to be any sort of rush.”

“There was mention of the absent guards, but more so with a tune of expectedness. Seems that their occasional absence is more the rule than the exception.” Philia adds.

Aloé raises her hand for some reason. “We took time to assure the innkeeper that we were alright. He was a bit shaken up, and not very eager to ask any questions about what business the guards had with us.”

"It was good of you to cover that loose end." You praise the three of them. "Is that everything?

"Oh!" Ruby sits up excitedly. "Once everyone headed inside, we were headed back here. That's when I felt it, well...Uh I think I did. I mean it felt like energy coming out of me."

"She's starting to manifest magic of some kind." Philia smiles at her. "I sensed it last night when we were practicing combat."

"Yeah, but it's hard to describe what it is...exactly." She adds slightly dejectedly. "It won't come out like I feel it could."

You immediately know that she needs a medium of some kind, and tell her to go fetch her sword. She's quick to listen to your orders and runs off and back.

"Now just focus on that feeling again. This time, try to get it to flow into your sword." You wrap your hands around hers and try to get a sense of any mana flowing from her. She seems very tense, but after quite some time you sense it.

>A fiery spark. It wants to lash out just like the teeth on her greatsword.

>A spark of electric charge. Flowing from her sword and back into her, making her more agile.
>>
>>5011781
>A spark of electric charge. Flowing from her sword and back into her, making her more agile.
Cauterizing her own attacks doesn't sound very helpful
>>
>>5011781
I feel the fire would be appropriate, with her being called Ruby and all.
I guess electric, if it's a buff rather than an attack. I just can't picture her doing a Palpatine impression.
If both are elemental attacks, my vote is for fire.
>>
>>5011781
>>A fiery spark. It wants to lash out just like the teeth on her greatsword.
>>
>>5011895
>>5012115

Going ahead with the flame element.

>Writing story, and will update character sheet later as well.
>>
I'm back and just finished eating. Picking up writing and will try to post in an hour and a half!
>>
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>>5012133


Small sparks of dark flame drip onto the hard marble floor. It smokes terribly even as it falls through the air in orange and tar black strands. As small as it is, something about isn’t quite right. It’s almost...polluted. It's certainly being affected by something within her by the time it reaches her sword. You've never seen anything quite like it.

"Holy hell!" Her eyes catch the bright orange streaks of the flame and reflect them strongly. Her expression of awe turns to a wild grin as she turns to you. "This is awesome!"

You unclasp her hands and take a step back from the viscous sparks leaping from the tip of her blade like bubbling oil. "Be careful how much of yourself you give to it. It's still a flame even if you're the one evoking it."

She nods happily while still enraptured by her own magic. You turn your gaze first to Aloé who looks on with wonderment in her eyes as well, and then to Philia whose expression is noticeably more grave. She's quietly conveying her concern in her expressive azure eyes. She's not fully aware of what's causing the flames to take on such a caustic form, so she's worried about Ruby evoking such an inelegant flame.

You can't help but feel differently. Looking at it reminds you of her...

In that moment, the flames stop.

"Awww." Ruby and Aloé whine in unison.

It’s probably for the best. Flame magic is notoriously difficult to manage, especially for a complete beginner. Inside a building with lovely flammable cushions and curtains will not make for safe practice. At the very least you can take some comfort in that she'll have a greater sense of control since her sword is her medium. The current polluted nature that it manifests will have to be dealt with at another time.

"It will last longer with practice." You start to reassure all of them. "The form might be...unusual, but so is Ruby here. Time will fix any issues that might be present…” Your gaze lingers with Philia for the last few words.

“Practice makes perfect!” Aloé adds cheerfully, beaming at your red-headed companion.

Philia relents a bit. “I’m glad that you could awaken your gift. I suppose that we can be there as mentors for you, Ruby.”

“Yup!” Ruby responds, still animated. “Thanks for that, and…thanks Elewyn. Your advice really helped…I kinda get why you’re good at magic now”

She must be in a good mood now, if she’s complimenting you.
>>
>>5012691

“You can thank me by using it well in combat.” You give her a nod and move past her to finally address the papers. “We’re surely going to need all the help we can get.”

It was wise to get the briefing about what happened in town out of the way. Their reporting might’ve been affected otherwise.

You take one glance out the window to gauge that the sun is well into its long descent. After the three of them get settled on their cushions again, you start. “I’ll share what I learned now.” You leaf through the stack of papers and find the first sheets that you studied. “These slavers have been trading races other than our kind primarily, that is up until their recent dealings with a contact known as “G” until six months ago.”

“Here…they used simple codes to indicate which races they were selling.” You hand the invoices to Aloé who carefully looks over their contents before handing it off to Philia. Philia quickly glances over the numbers before sliding the papers to Ruby. Ruby begins to look over the sheet, but quickly glances up at you with a glum expression.

“Basically, they weren’t picky about what kind of slaves the were receiving. Amani or Castanic, male or female, they didn’t seem to care about such things. Their focus was on a classification of their health and whether or not the females were of breeding age.” You explain to your red-headed companion.

“Yikes.” Ruby responds. “Maybe they wanted to have them give birth to more slaves? For work maybe.”

Philia turns to Ruby. “A possibility…But they still gave coin to purchase injured individuals. That is something I wouldn’t expect if they wanted them for work.”

You cross your arms in thought. “No, it wouldn’t be expected if they simply wanted a work force. I know of slave trades of injured individuals for medical experimentation, but those types of organizations don’t tend to have too much coin to toss around. Not like this.”

Aloé raises her hand again. “Then, maybe they have multiple reasons for buying slaves?”

“A reasonable guess. But here, this note suggests otherwise. Seems like they found what they were looking for.” You hold up the note regarding the purchaser’s intense interest in buying Elin and to read it aloud.

“Thirty goddamn thousand silver coins?!” Ruby shouts, barely letting you finish the note. “Where? Who? Where?! Hell, I’ll work for them!”

Aloé clutches her knees close to her chest. “You’d sell us off?” She asks quietly.

Ruby’s eyes go wide upon the realization of what she said. “No, I didn’t mean you guys. No, I uh, I didn’t mean to say that I would sell another Elin. I just…” She struggles with her words for a while before dropping down close to Aloé. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it. I just got excited by all the coin, ya know?”
>>
>>5012697

Aloé seems to still be upset, so you decide to step in. “Let’s not be hard on her. Ruby was focused on the coin, and not the actual work. That’s why you said that, right?”

“…Yeah. Aloé really, I didn’t mean it!” Ruby grabs her arm while pleading.

“…It’s okay.” She responds still without looking at her. “Really. I was thinking about other things too…ah nevermind.”

Philia reaches over and tugs on Ruby’s shirt. “Let’s give time for our moods to settle, shall we?”

After a moment, Ruby relents and sits in a similar manner to Aloé with her knees close to her chest.

The information isn’t going over smoothly, and you’re not quite finished either.

You continue regardless. “From that point, three more of our kind were sold off likely brutalized along the way. For this purchase, the slavers took payment in weapons, ships, bullion, and coin. This means that not only do they have the resources to toss tens of thousands of coins for the sake of our capture, but they are economically connected enough to supply weapons and ships for that end as well.”

A settled mood would be one way to describe your three companions as they gaze at you with serious expressions. The laughter and excitement that filled this villa a short while ago is now gone.

You sigh and settle down to sit on the ground with them. “I’m telling you these things because this is something that you all need to be aware of. I understand that it’s not easy to hear, but you all need to go ahead fully prepared…” You hand Aloé the final note and watch carefully as your three companions take turn reading the contents. You allow Ruby to fully finish before concluding. “These slavers aren’t the only ones interested in capturing Elin, and worst of all, there’s an Elin out there helping the slavers.”

The room is quiet for a long time after that before someone finally speaks up.

"Should we go home?" Aloé asks aloud, earnestly. "This seems to be way more dangerous than we had first thought. I mean..Ruby you're just doing this for coin too, right? Isn't this too much? I mean we can sneak back on the road and night. Not to mention who can we trust, ah... nevermind."

The other two are clearly dealing with troubled thoughts as well.

The report has clearly disheartened Aloé the most. But is she to be blamed? Asking them to continue at this point would legitimately put them on a path that would endanger their lives. They haven't had the chance to live as long as you have, nor do they have the experience you have with dire life and death situations. That said, while you can continue on with less or none of them, you know that you'll need as much help as you can get for the best odds to save the other Elin, all of them.

You sense that this is the last point that they could turn back if they wished.

>Convince them to stay on with you.

>Allow whoever would like to leave to do so.

>Write in
>>
Character Sheet Updates:

Elewyn
>Dawn's Blessing now increases Physical and Magical resistance by +2 passively and +4 whenever being actively cast.

I wanted to give this spell a little bit more utility, hence the passive and active modes now.

Ruby
>MP increased to 3
>Caustic Firefang is now a usable spell.

To reflect the magic that she just invoked in the story.
>>
>>5012717
>Ask them if they know anyone who can protect them.
There's strength in numbers, but if Elin are normally loners I don't see that ending well.
>>
>>5012717
>>Allow whoever would like to leave to do so.
>>
>>5012717
>>Allow whoever would like to leave to do so.
>>
Hi all, just a quick update from my end.

I'll be taking the day off from posting to deal with IRL stuff and to prepare for the upcoming climax to this arc in the actual story. I'm sure that you've already noticed that the update posts have drifted to being uploaded later and later in the night. (US time.) So, I wanted to catch my breath so to speak.

In the meantime, I'll leave the vote open for another 5 hours and then start drafting up the result. As there's been a lot of revelations storywise, please feel free to post any questions that you might have, and I should be able to address them decently quickly.

Otherwise, I'll be back later today to tally the votes. Have a good one!
>>
>>5012717
>>Allow whoever would like to leave to do so.
It's their choice.
Make sure they know we will be attempting to save the others, with or without their help.
>>
>>5012964
>>5012980
>>5013027
Offering a way out.

I'll write this up and post some time tomorrow.
>>
>>5013211

Still at work and chipping away at the update in my free time. I feel confident that I will get one up today, so update in maybe ~3-4 hours.
>>
>>5013914

It’s their choice in the end. They’re young, so they should know that they can still back out of this.

You fold your hands in your lap. “Listen, all three of you. We took on this mission knowing full well that there would be potential danger along the way. In spite of that, you all have acted and fought bravely to get us this far.” You pause on Aloé and give her a soft smile. “I’m don’t doubt your potential. Nor do I doubt your capabilities when I say what I’m going to say next.”

Ruby flashes a quizzical look while Philia and Aloé look on more intently.

“You can stop here. You can stop here.” You repeat. “Like Aloé said, these revelations are far more than you or I ever anticipated when taking on this mission. If I knew of any of this, I would’ve certainly let you all know beforehand. It is because of this that I’m fine with any of you stopping here, and I wouldn’t think any less of you.”

“In that case, what action will you take?” Philia stares at you knowingly.

“I will continue on.” You answer simply and watch the shadows on the ground lengthen imperceptibly to most. “Alone if I have to. But know that I intend to finish this mission, and I intend to save the three of our kind that remain captured.”

“Oh, bull…” Ruby waves dismissively. “You’re built like a doll. What the hell can you do by yourself?”

You let her have her outburst and choose to ignore that for now. “I’m not sending you away either. For the sake of the mission, I wouldn’t want any of you to leave now. But, it’s not only about what I want.”

Ruby immediately responds. “Fine then! It’s settled. Let’s finish the job that we took on. Boss always said that you’re only as good as your word.”

“That’s easy for you to say…” Aloé mutters quietly.

“Huh?” Ruby looks around at all of you for the source of the voice.

“You’re not going to be the one that has to stand up to all their attacks.” Aloé finally starts to look at someone, at Ruby. “I’ll be the one that’s shoved to the front to do that.”

Ruby hesitates before responding, seemingly still affected by their earlier exchange. “Y-you’re the toughest one here, and…you have that shield and that magic.”

Aloé shoots up to her feet and shouts. “Do you think that makes it any less scary?! Look at me!” She stretches her arms wide. “I’m not any bigger than any of you, but it’s my gift to be the one that has to take the hits? Does that seem fair to you? It hurts. It always hurts…”

“You don’t think I know it hurts?!” Ruby stands and shouts back right at Aloé’s face. “They cut me up good last night. You don’t think that shit hurt?! Fine! If you can’t tough it out with a few hired guards then go home. We’ll save the other Elin without your help.”
>>
>>5014138
“I want to save them! But, it’s not just going to be a few guards! If you don’t understand that, then you’re an idiot.” Aloé yells back with her eyes reddening.

The distress and discord that the revelations you shared are clear among these two, you wonder about Philia’s thoughts but she remains quiet. You intended to let them get their emotions out, but it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon

You push in between them. “You can settle your arguments some other time. Regardless of whether you’re choosing to stay on or not, time isn’t on our sides.”

As agitated as they are, they both understand that fact and remain quiet. You continue. “Now is when you let me know if you’re going to stay on with the mission or not. It’s your decision to make, and no one here is going to object to what you choose. Understood?”

There aren’t any objections to your proclamation.

“I’m staying on. Can’t say that I like the wishy washy attitude about letting people go now” Ruby crosses her arms and pouts.

“…I’ll stay too.” Aloé crosses her arms and pouts in the opposite direction. “You can’t just force someone into something like this, but I’ve decided not going to back down.” She turns her gaze to you. “Ahh,..Thank you for understanding that.”

It’s quiet for a moment after that, so in a strange act of unison, you, Ruby, and Aloé all turn to Philia, who returns a bemused expression.

“It’s humorous to me that if they caught us in the act of rescue, they’d be quite happy that we delivered even more Elin to them.” Philia stands and dusts off her rear. “I came here with the intention of saving those captured Elin, and that hasn’t changed. Now I suppose I will stay on to keep three more Elin from falling into their clutches.”

You shake your head and laugh slightly. “Then it’s settled. We’re all still here together…”

Putting together groups like this was never your strong suit. The shadows cast from the window have managed to stretch their way to you and now rest at the base of your legs. She was better at this, despite her seriousness. He… was very good at this. You suppose you’ve learned something from them.
>>
>>5014138

You nod in conviction. “It may not be in our kind’s nature to come together for a cause, but if there was ever one that needed it, it’s this. We won’t let them use us as they use natural resources. This will be how we strike back.”

Finally, their expressions all lighten as they nod eagerly in agreement at your words.

“We still have time before our mission…” You stare out the window. “There are perhaps two or three hours before evening.”

“Then shall we rest up until then?” Philia suggests happily. “Perhaps Elewyn could share a story over a drink?”

“Screw that.” Ruby steps forward and waves her off. “There bound to be some coin hidden away here. We gotta search for it and take it for ourselves. More coin for us, is less coin for them.”

“We wouldn’t be able to carry very much with us. Plus, it would make a lot of noise.” Aloé replies flatly. “I think that we should take advantage of the guard’s mistreatment of the townsfolk. See if we can't learn more about their night movements, and maybe get some people on our side.

They all look toward you to settle the decision.

Time is limited, so you think on the options presented so far.

>Go with Philia's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon resting up for the night to come.

>Go with Ruby's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon searching for hidden coin.

>Go with Aloé's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon gathering information in town.

>Write in
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>>5014151
>Go with Aloé's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon gathering information in town.
Yeah it's time to make a lot of friends
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>>5014219
Yeah given what we've learned we may very well need more allies for this mission
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>>5014151
>>Go with Aloé's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon gathering information in town.
>>
>>5014151
>>Go with Aloé's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon gathering information in town.
It's worth a try. I have no clue how the rest of this is going to go, I'm just glad my hunch was right and they all stayed.
>>
>>5014151
>>Go with Aloé's idea. Spend the rest of the afternoon gathering information in town.
>>
>>5014219
>>5014242
>>5014285
>>5014372
>>5014430

A unanimous decision to venture into town!

>Writing
>>
Update in ~30 minutes.
>>
>>5014619

Despite how barren and impoverished the town may be, there are still people who call it home. Furthermore, when looking around you at the obscene wealth of the villa, you can already sense how the townsfolk may feel about the slavers and their enforcers.

You rub your chin in thought. "Like Aloé said the slavers and their guards have already put in the effort of sowing bad will with the way they mistreated the townspeople of Tulufan. We should try to reap the fruits of their labor by getting someone in the town to turn against them."

"Aww, damn it." Ruby pouts even more.

You step toward her. "There may be a way to kill two birds with one stone."

"Kill what now?" Ruby asks with a lifted eyebrow.

You smirk. "Get two things accomplished with one action. While we might be busy tonight, this villa will still be unlocked and unprotected. If we get someone on our side, then they could raid this place in our absence."

"Then what? Would they just share the coin with us?" Ruby shoots back.

"Perhaps not, but worst case scenario, it'd still mean less coin for them. If we pick the right people it'd mean more coin for someone not so sympathetic to their cause." You point at her. "I don't know what your plans are for after this mission, but these are the kinds of actions we all will need to take if we ever want to stop these people."

"A long term battle." Philia confirms sadly.

You announce to all three of them. "The kind of battle that we can win. They may not be waging a war, but they are still hunting us. Whether in the forest or in the city, that's the same..." You take a look around the luxurious villa in the light of the afternoon sky, appreciating its tall wood-arched roof, the long ornate curtains, the plush cushions. An idea comes to you. "That's not to say that we can't inflict some damage in the short term as well."

~

The biting wind of the hot afternoon rushes past the four of you as you make your way down the hill and back into town.

"It's regrettable that we won't be able to enjoy this lovely villa any further." Philia comments as she shields her eyes from the sandy wind.

"Aww crap. You're right." Ruby exclaims as she turns to look back at the structure.

"I-it was nice while it lasted." Aloé agrees amicably as she tries to keep the wind from blowing up her skirt. “I’ve never got to sleep in such a nice place before. Even when I first got to the palace, I was kept in the infirmary.”

Ruby turns back to the path in front of her. “Yup. They always had us sleeping on the floor when I was still with my merc company. That was normal, so long as we had the mats.”
>>
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>>5014880

“Nor I, actually. As peculiar as they are, humans are quite adept at creating luxury comforts. It really is something that we could never compete with.” Philia muses.

“It was the most lavish place that I’ve stayed in for quite some time.” You contribute.

“But not the most? Ah!” Aloé shrieks from a sudden gust of wind.

The others are temporarily distracted keeping the sand out of their eyes and mouths.

“Not even close.” You respond quietly and turn your focus to the dry path that lies ahead of you. “Other than the inn, what sorts of facilities do they have in this town?”

“Not very many.” Aloé answers as she rushes to catch up. “A town hall, we think. The elderly humans seem to hang out there.”

Philia chimes in. “We certainly overheard some scorn they had about the guards as we were scouting this morning.”

“Yeah, but they’re old. How could they help us?” Ruby adds.

You throw a glare at Ruby who quickly looks away.

If you were to get the elders of the town on your side, you might be able to have the entirety of Tulufan working against the slavers and their guards.

The slope evens out as you and your companions make it back into town. The light of the descending sun combined with the townsfolk seeking shelter from the harsh heat gives the town an almost abandoned feeling.

Only the billowing of large cloth shades and the wind whipping through the paths give any noise. The four of you glance around for any guards that may be patrolling.

Philia scans the horizon. “There is another dedicated business here, or at least I suspect as much from what we saw this morning…” She turns to you to elaborate. “Women of the night.

Ruby and Aloé exchange confused looks. That’s something you’ll explain only if you need to. Needless to say, if there is a brothel here, the guards will have frequented it at some point. Thinking on how Sario and his men carried themselves, you can imagine there being animosity from those women as well. Those sorts of feelings can be leveraged in potentially dangerous ways for them.
>>
>>5014884

Your thoughts are interrupted by a group of three human children appearing from a nearby alley.

“She wasn’t there either.” A young girl whines. “Let’s go home.”

“We have to keep looking. She’ll be hungry and scared by now.” A boy chides her.

“But we haven’t seen her since she ran away.” The other girl responds quietly, seemingly hopeless.

At once, the three spot your group and walk over to you. Given their stature you would say that they’re around the age of ten or eleven.

“You’re not from here.” The boy looks at all four of you with suspicion.

“They’re students!” One of the girls steps forward to admire your clothes. “Your uniforms are so cute!”

“But wouldn’t a nice set of maid uniforms be even better?” Philia eagerly steps forward to ask.

The young trio all look quite perplexed at her sudden question.

“Give it a rest.” You whisper to her and then turn to the children. “No, we’re not from here. We’re on a field study for our school.”

“What’s school like?” One of the girls immediately questions.

“Where are you from?” The other girl asks without waiting for an answer.

“Alright, enough.” The boy shouts at his two friends. “Let’s leave them alone. We have to keep looking for Dusty anyway.”

“Dusty?” Ruby asks.

“My cat.” He answers hollowly. “She got out last night, some noise in the alley spooked her and we haven’t seen her since.”

Your three companions exchange concerned glances. Ah, so it was his cat that you saw last night. Given your companions hushed conversation you also figure that they were the ones responsible for scaring it off as well.

“Did she dark fur and yellow eyes?” You ask.

His eyes instantly light up. “Yes! Yes, that’s her. Where did you see her?”

You point to the street that the cat crossed your path. “She was there last night, but then she ran off toward the hills. I’m sorry, but that was the only time we saw her.”

“No, no no. That’s good.” He turns to his two friends. “Cmon, we were looking in the wrong place!”

Showing no signs of following him, one of the girls calls out. “Aren’t we not supposed to go to the hills? Your mom said-“

“It’s fine!” He interjects. “The sun is still up, and she’ll come running when I call out for her.”

The other two wave their goodbyes before begrudgingly following the cat's owner.

"I feel kinda bad." Aloé states quietly.

"As do I. But time is certainly too short to go help some children...right?" Philia turns to you.

You watch as the three children head for the outskirts of town.

>Focus on your original plan. Head to the town center to talk with the elders.

>Focus on your original plan. Head to the brothel to talk with the workers there.

>Catch up with the children and help them locate the cat.

>Write in.
>>
>>5014893
>>Focus on your original plan. Head to the brothel to talk with the workers there.
>>
>>5014893
>>Catch up with the children and help them locate the cat.
>>
>>5014893
>Elewyn to the elders

>The rest help with the cat
We don't want to show up to the leaders with as an armed band anyway
>>
>>5014893
>>Focus on your original plan. Head to the town center to talk with the elders.
>>
>>5015318
I support that, if it's allowed. I just know the kids are going to happen on enemies and we can get rep for saving them. Splitting of Elewyn is risky, but it could pay off. She won't look threatening to the elders, but they may also not take her seriously.
>>
>>5014919
>>5015318
>>5015356
>>5015423
I'm interested in seeing how a party split off may go, so I'll allow the multiple choices.

>Writing, will post in several hours as it's time for me to sleep. Night all!
>>
Update in ~30 minutes, probably
>>
>>5016023

Perhaps if your three companions weren't partially responsible for the cat getting loose, you'd be fine with letting them decide if they wanted to help the children. But they are, there's likely a very good reason that the child's mother told him not to venture into the surrounding hills, and well, children should have the chance to interact with other children for a well-rounded upbringing. You only briefly wonder what that implies about you, as you plan to speak with the elders on your own...

You cross your arms and turn back to your three companions. "Time is too short for all of us to go. Since you three were the ones that spooked off the boy's cat, you go make sure that they don't get injured or eaten in those hills. In the meantime, I'll head for the town center to see if we can't gain the elder's support against the slavers."

"Aww cmon!" Ruby whines at you while shielding her eyes from the sun. "I've been getting a raw deal all day, now you're saying that we have to hike around in this heat?"

You glare at her. "If you would prefer a less 'wishy washy attitude' then consider it an order." Her gaze turns away from your even before you finish the sentence. You sigh and turn your attention to the others. "Be mindful of the time, and of the mission we still have ahead of us. It wouldn't do us any good if you were late or one of you were injured right before we commence the final part of the mission."

Without any protest, they both nod their assent. As they take off after the children, Philia tugs on Ruby's sleeve to get her to come along.

"Fine!" Ruby acquiesces and the three of them trot off to catch up.

At the same time, you set your eyes for the largest building near the geographic center of the town. As you set off, you think again on the tactics necessary to succeed tonight. These slavers are far more well-financed and well-equipped than would stand to reason for a normal slave trade operation. However, it’s only their trading of non-human slaves that has tacit approval from any governing bodies. Unlevied trade of such a substantial value and the establishment of a personal army would certainly attract the attention of the authorities. Despite them being this far out in the desert, it would be in their interest not to bring any notice to their operation. Ultimately you conclude that they will have a higher level of well-equipped guards, but not on the scale that you wouldn’t be able to sneak past. Still, a distraction would serve you and your companions very well. While you have an idea, the execution will require outside help.
>>
>>5016049

There’s a heavily aged and unmaintained wooden watchtower associated with the building, that was once the only man-made structure built in this inhospitable desert. It seems as when the newer portions of the town grew around its base, the townsfolk neglected maintaining its structure, but could never do away with it completely. The tradition of it simply being there, long before any of the inhabitants were born or came to this town, is what prevents it from being torn down for lumber. You stand near it for a time, listening as the wooden skeleton creaks and moans from the unrelenting wind. As much as its voice groans from its advanced state, it’s also as if it threatens you with its own collapse before it’d allow you to tear it down. From its modest peak you recall a memory of watching the sun slowly cross the horizon, and then snuff out into a thin smear of dark orange light on infinite dark sky. The dark at the time heralded the start of your mission, much like it does now.

Eventually, you continue to the entrance of the town center. The paint on the tall wooden doors has worn away to the point that one couldn’t be blamed if they thought there wasn’t ever any there. You pass through. There’s a staggering difference in the brightness upon entering that your eyes are quick to adjust to as you enter a simple open hall. The scant few windows are heavily stained with dust and grime and adjust the small light entering to a pallid yellow tint. The air is impressively moist, but in a way that makes you want to keep the door open as you enter. As the wood door does close behind you, the several elderly folks finally notice you and begin excitedly murmuring among themselves.

“Is that your Eshara?” An elderly woman asks her table companion.

“No, no. Eshara is older than that.” The man dismisses.

“Well, nevermind that. Come on closer, dear. We won’t bite.” The woman squints as she motions for you to approach.

As you get closer, a few of the hall’s inhabitants stand and meet you partway.

A different elderly woman gets very close to inspect your face. “Ohh no, that’s not Eshara. Far too pretty.” A few of them laugh at her words.

“Then one of Lorin’s friends?” A dignified aged woman approaches slowly. “Do you know my Lorin? He’s about your age I reckon.”

You venture to guess that Lorin is the boy that is currently off searching for his runaway cat.
>>
>>5016052

You finally have a chance to speak. “Sorry, ma’am. I’ve encountered him just earlier, but I can’t say that I know him. I’ve just recently come to town. It is a pleasure to meet all of you.” You give a respectful curtsy.

“You should get to know him!” She laughs heavily to herself. “I’d love to have a granddaughter as pretty and polite as you are.”

You smile gently at her complements. “I’m afraid that I’m not going to stay long in town.”

The group all seems to bemoan that last statement. Time is short, so you decide to get closer to the point of you coming here.

“The reason why I came here is because of the slavers.” You state loudly and clearly to ensure they all hear your words.

Instantly, grave expressions fall upon their faces. They share concerned murmurs before turning back to you.

“Little one, don’t ever say things like that. If they hear you, you’ll be in a heap of trouble.”

"They roughed up my boy something terrible last night. They can all go to hell for all I care."

“They’re terrible people. They’ve done awful things and they’ll do those things to you.”

You shake your head resolutely. “I’m fully aware of that. But…” You decide to remove your beret and allow your animal ears to unfurl. “They have some of my kind.”
They stare in shock at the top of your head before one of them finally finds their wits to speak.

“A-an Elin! I haven’t seen once since I was conscripted. Must’ve been sixty years…”

“I thought they were just a fairy tale. Those ears…are they real.”

“Of course they are! You’ve never left here your whole life, so of course you’d think that.”

“No wonder she was so cute.”

“But to think that a real one would be here…I’m sorry I don’t think I caught your name.”

“That’s because I haven’t shared it, yet. My name is Elewyn. Once again, I’ve come here to save my kind from the slavers.” You state boldly as you pass your gaze onto all of those surrounding you.

Suddenly from the back of the hall a commotion could be heard. An extremely aged man shakily musters the effort to push himself from his chair and onto his feet.
His toothless mouth puffs and twists as he rises, and his skeletal hand grasps for a large walking stick. He finds his target and uses it to drag his aged body toward you and look upon you with blind eyes.

“I haven’t seen him move like that in thirty years…” The comparatively less aged crowd stare at him in disbelief as he finally reaches you.

The wisps of white hair have fallen in front of his wrinkled face as his mouth twists even more to marshal the right muscles together to speak as if he hasn’t done so in decades. His mouth opens and in an unexpectedly cogent voice he speaks. “You’ve come back.” His toothless smile wide.

~~
>>
>>5016055

~~

The six of you trudge up the cracked, dry hill with the boy named Lorin leading the way. Your pack seems extra heavy as you lug it around with you, making you almost ready to fling it off into the distance. The boy desperately searches the surroundings as he calls out “Dusty!” over and over again. It kinda reminds you of one of your marches in your merc unit, but everyone there was definitely taller than you are and were on their way to murder people instead of looking for a damned cat. Guess you’re on babysitting duty now.

Philia hands you a waterskin which you drink from eagerly. “If you could distract him while I ask some of our animal friends for assistance, it would make this whole endeavor end much faster.” She speaks quietly to avoid being overhead.

After your drink you look behind you. Luckily, Aloé is being forced to tell the other two girls all about Velika, so they’re not really paying attention. That means you’ll have to distract the kid in front somehow.

In that moment, you stumble over a small stone, but can keep from totally losing your balance.

“Hey, you said that you’d help look for Dusty, so the least you could do is pay attention and keep an eye out.” He scolds you while still scanning the hills.

You stomp up to reach where he’s at. “Hey! If you paid a little more attention than we wouldn’t need to be out in these hot and shitty hills looking for your dumb cat.”

“Hey! Don’t curse, and don’t call my cat dumb or else I’ll sock you.” He glares back at you, and then trips over a small stone.

You instantly laugh at him. “Listen kid, I’ll curse as much as I fucking want. Maybe learn to tie your shoes before you try to fight me.”

He throws you a quick nasty look before going back to searching. “Ugh. Dumb girls, can’t even help me look…”

As the two of you reach the crest of a hill, he instantly freezes as he scans a small clearing at the base opposite from where you came. A small dark animal walks slowly in the clearing, carefully assessing its surroundings.

“It’s her!” He exclaims happily. “You stay here, I don’t want her to get scared off.” He goes ahead while shouting her name.
>>
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>>5016056

To his credit the cat recognizes him and doesn’t flee from his approaching figure.

Philia catches up with you suddenly. “We need to get out of here-“ Her azure eyes freeze on Lorin running down the hill. “Stop!” She shouts.

He doesn’t seem to pay her shout any heed as he continues to plod down the incline carefully.

Her eyes glow slightly with blue light as she scans the surroundings. “A falcon indicated that we’re next to a sand wyrm den. They’re all around under the sand, and there would be far too many to ever fight them all.”

Shit, you don’t know what a sand wyrm is exactly, but if it has Philia worried then it can’t be good. He’s heading right for a sandy clearing. The earth shifts in the path he left behind him and for a brief moment you see a large snake-like creatures crest out of the sand, showing off its terrible jaws, and then heading back in. It's slightly larger than a grown human man from what you can tell.

If there's a nest, then there's bound to be a lot more. However, it seems like there's only the one at the moment, and for some reason it has only noticed him and not you despite Philia's shouting. Someone needs to stop him, but then there's the other two kids you need to think about as well...

>Run after him alone and force him to come back.

>Have you and Aloé run after him to force him to come back.

>Shout for him to stop, and come back on his own.

>Write in.
>>
>>5016066
>>Shout for him to stop, and come back on his own.
>>
>>5016066
Do these creatures act like animals? Fire, loud noises, and a giant cloud of sand would make them think twice about this being an easy meal.
>Run after him alone and force him to come back.
>>
>>5016348
The sand wyrms would indeed behave in a similar manner pack-hunting animals.
>>
>>5016354
Setting it on fire would certainly keep it busy, maybe even pick a fight with its own allies.

But if Ruby can't even fling that fireball....
>>
>>5016066
>>Run after him alone and force him to come back.
>>
>>5016066
>>Run after him alone and force him to come back.
>>
Hey everyone, just wanted to give a quick outlook for the upcoming week. Seems like it's going to be more of the same in terms of posting schedule. Aiming for once a day, with hopefully longer updates. If anything comes up, I'll let you all know. Thank you all for reading this far!

>>5016348
>>5016475
>>5016546

Heading out to stop him.

>Writing
>>
>>5016818

He's not going to stop unless someone makes him.

You drop your pack and turn to Philia while pulling off your shoes. "If they get too close, then cover us, and make sure Aloé keeps an eye out for the other two kids!" You're already pulling Carver out of your pack and trying to catch up to the runt before you finish your sentence.

"There's only so far I can cover!" Philia warns as you run off.

You're much quicker than him, but he's got a decent head start. The hot desert air stings your lungs as you run. It's really hard to get a footing in this hot piled sand, and you feel like you could lose your balance charging down hill so quickly.

Damned Elewyn knew this was going to happen. She didn't tell you to save the cat, she said to make sure these kids don't get eaten.

He rushes past the base of the dune when a crest of sand rises beneath his feet suddenly, causing him to slip and lose his footing. His shoulder hits the dune hard, kicking up a large amount of sand as he tumbles several feet. You watch as the raised lump of sand begins to circle around the boy. The wyrm seems to want to cut him off from the front.

"To your left!" Aloé shouts to you. "There's another back here as well!"

You just barely catch as yet another wyrm submerges beneath the sand some hundred feet ahead of you. You and the child stomping around this area seems to be attracting a lot of attention. The cat is heavily agitated at the predators lurking in the area, yet it remains where it stands eyes darting back from the movement in the sand to the boy.

Covered in sand and scrapes, the boy clutches his arm and moans in pain as you finally catch up to him.

"What the hell do you think stop means?" You shout at him while keeping an eye on the surrounding sand. You tightly grip his uninjured arm and begin tugging him back. "We're going to get eaten if we don't go back!"

"NO!" He tries his best to tear away from your grip. "I have to get her! She's right there!"

You fight back against him, it's hard to make progress back to the dune with him resisting. "It's just a cat, you idiot! Call her over!"

He fights desperately against you, losing his balance and collapsing into the sand over and over again. His eyes are focused on his pet the entire time.. "Dusty! Come here, girl! Come on! Let's go home! Dusty!"
>>
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>>5017185

The cat notices his cries and attempts to reach him, but is startled again by the heavily shifting sand. She freezes, back arched hissing at the surrounding wyrms. She seems conflicted between wanting to run away and trying to reach the boy. Him being here is keeping the cat from saving itself, the blinding heat and trying to pull this runt is exhausting you, and you're stuck in this mess as well.

You lose your temper and shout the first thing that comes to mind. " You idiot! You can hardly take care of yourself Yet you intend to try to save her?"

A sudden memory of Elewyn shouting those words at you floods into your mind, making your head feel like it's going to burst.

No....

You barely manage to keep hold of the boy as your head pounds, blinding away whatever memory that was.

The sand rapidly shifts around the two of you.

Focus! He's going to get the both of you killed at this rate. Think, damn it...

Knocking him out would solve the issue of him resisting, but you'd still have to drag him all the way back up the slope before you have any help. Philia would be able to cover you once you reach the base of the dune, but you'd still have immediately deal with the wyrm circling the two of you. Otherwise, if you try to save the cat who knows how many more of these things might you have to deal with.

There's still the mission tonight to think about...trying to do anything but head back would be a huge risk for you and him. The boy is curses at you as you won't let go of him. Angry hot tears dry quickly on his face as he clearly just wants to save his pet with hardly any regard for his own dumb life...

~~~
You are not in combat yet. For the image, green arrows represent the children. The town is located to the northwest. The cat and your allies are about equidistant from your current position.
~~~

>"Enough is enough." Knock him cold, and drag him back to safety.

>"Ugh! You idiot, you better keep up!" You and him rush to save the cat.

>Write in
>>
>>5017190
gotta be an hero

>"The cat is dead if you struggle any more."
>Cast the caustic flames on your sword, and slowly walk towards the cat. Keep the flames pointed vaguely at the monsters until your MP runs out, then book it
>>
>>5017229
That could work. I'm afraid that the kid will have to come with us, though, since the cat will also be afraid of fire.
>>
>>5017190
>>"Enough is enough." Knock him cold, and drag him back to safety.
>>
>>5017229
>>5017313
I'm going to take the liberty to assume that you two are voting for the same thing, and also synthesize.

>Writing
>>
>>5017721
Update in ~45 minutesss
>>
>>5017721

You can't believe you're going to try to save that stupid cat, you don't even like cats all that much, not to mention bratty kids. You just don't get why this cat is so damn important to him.

Okay think...This isn't some brawl where all you need to do is hack and slash until your boss says you're done. Who knows how many of these things are crawling around under your feet and can pop up any second to chomp you. They're a bunch of wild creatures...and you're stuck in the middle of them. Ah, screw it!

As you finally let go of his arm, he stumbles a bit and turns in surprise. You look him dead in the eyes. "Hey! That cat is dead if you don't do exact as I say."

"What? What do you mean-" His stance indicates that he's ready to run after the cat at any moment.

"Idiot! In case you didn't notice there's a bunch of monsters here, and they will eat ya if you don't stick close to me." You grip Carver in both hands and try to remember what Elewyn said about getting your magic to flow.

"But, Holy crap!" He jumps back in shock as your sword ignites dripping your angry flame onto the hot sand underfoot.

By giving him a rough push forward, you snap him out of his daze. "You're going to need to take the lead until you grab your cat. It'll run away from the fire if I'm in front." Taking steady but slightly rushed steps, you begin making your way to the boy's cat.

Marching with the boy just a few feet ahead of you, you have Carver pointed out at any mounds of shifting sand, ready to bite and burn anything that wants to get too close.

Right on queue, the wyrm that had circled around the boy bursts from the sand in front of you, cutting off the view of the cat. Even with the hot sun bearing down on all of you, the deep pit of its mouth is too dark to see anything other than the many rows of pointed teeth. Sharp quills all along its lengthy body quiver and shake as it clears the cloud of sand it left in its wake. Immediately, you pull him to your side and point your flaming sword directly at its face. As if pushed back by a gust it wind, it rears back almost as it slipping, and crashes into the sand.
>>
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>>5018164

"Keep going!" You pull him along with you, not sure how much longer your magic will hold out. Steadily the two of you progress as you keep an eye on the cat who seems to notice your approach. As the two of you finally reach it, you hold back to deal with the other surging mound of sand. A new wyrm hisses horribly as it bursts forth from the hot sand. Once again, you slash your fiery weapon as it approaches. This one instead of falling back, makes a sharp turn to wrap around you.

In that moment, the flames from your sword dissipate, leaving only a smoking tar on the sand. You prepare for a regular strike as it regains the courage to slither toward you, but in that moment an arrow alight in azure flames sinks into its back. Once more it hisses its discontent into the scorching air, before delving back into the sand for safety. The arrow snaps off and dissipates as it burrows once again.

In the distance you spot Philia scanning both your side of the dune as well as the opposite. She looses another arrow to what you assume is another one of the damned creatures. "There's far too many to fight off!" She shouts at you, motioning for you to return right away.

Aloé does her best to put herself in between the girls and the wyrms that lurk on the opposite side of the dune. She's already leading them back to the town and safety.

You turn back to the boy who's secured the cat tightly in his arms, and pressed against his chest. His neck and arm bleeds with scratches, but he doesn't seem to mind at all as he runs his hand along the cat's back.

With the cat rescued, his face seems to be a lot more scared as he realizes just how far the two of you need to run back. He grips the back of your shirt as you set your eyes on the dune.

You barely begin to dash back as the first wyrm you scared off returns with yet another wyrm trailing it in the distance. This is starting to get really bad. The wyrm reaches you and coils defensively, eyeing you up. Its body may be long, but with one good strike you feel like you can at the very least injure it heavily. Unfortunately, you have more than yourself to worry about if you decide to tangle with it.

It lunges at you for an attack!

___________________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Ruby

Ruby
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 1

One large sand wyrm is springing with jaws wide directly at you. This one is completely uninjured, and more loom underneath the sand.

>Ruby to dodge and continue running

>Ruby to dodge and then strike back at the creature. (Include the Skill you would like to use)

>Write in

(Character sheets)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

(Combat Rules)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1peKn2-vZzeDmAXhy_ZlifFA9nOMlaEs3PK7hgKSel3M/edit?usp=sharing
>>
>>5018175
>>Ruby to dodge and then strike back at the creature.
Just the regular attack. I don't think they'd notice bleeding, and it's too close to do stupid stuff like launching the kid on the sword
>>
>>5018178
Support. Wack it and book it.
>>
Rolled 6, 6 = 12 (2d10)

It's awfully busy here at work today, as you might be able to tell with the delay in the vote tally. It will likely be a shorter update, since it is combat after all, but please bear with me as I'm not sure when I'll be able to start writing it.

>>5018178
>>5018240
Cutting up some wyrms

>Ruby to use Heavy Slash on nearby sand wyrm.
Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 7 for hit)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+9+3 = 17
Bleed Chance if Connected: 10%
>>
Rolled 6 (1d10)

>>5018793

Ruby's slice connects!
Rolling for bleed chance (1d10, 10 = bleed)
>>
>>5018798
No bleed on slice.

Rolling for the sand wyrm's attack. (2d10, CR 11)

>Writing outcome
>>
Rolled 5, 2 = 7 (2d10)

>>5018802
Not forgetting to roll this time.
>>
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>>5018802
>>5018805

Despite its clear size advantage, its attack is full of hesitation as if it's still fearful the fire it saw earlier will appear again. As you pull your sword to the side, you push the boy down with an authoritative kick. Then, with a carefully timed wind up, you twist your whole body into walloping the beast with a powerful swing of your sword. As your foot finds the sand again, a gory larger mouth is carved into the wyrm's face as it reels to the side, staggered by your slice. Screeching and chittering, it writhes in pain and kicks up sand,

Its not quite dead, but you'd practically have to be stopped for it to have a chance for it attack you again.

You pull the boy back to his feet as he clutches your shirt. Not taking any moment to rest you book it. "How the heck did you do that?!" He turns back to glance at the heavily injured wyrm.

"I had a lot of practice on bad kids." You smirk as he eyes you fearfully.

As you get closer to the dune, you notice that Aloé has dropped out of sight likely to fight off any of these damned things that are close to her and the other girls. Philia is rapidly looking between each side. She looses a shot toward the far side, letting you know that its not any better over there. She drops to her rear to slide down your side of the dune to get closer to wyrms around you. Surging mounds of sand close in from both your left and right side.

The numbers are really stacking against you. There's really no choice but to keep beating a retreat. Despite how desperate thing are you know that the town is just a short run away once past the dune. Once over, you and your companions can cover the kids while all of you get out of this cursed wyrm nest.

You sigh to yourself. If Elewyn every wants to recruit you again, she's going to need to fork over more coin.

Both wyrms burst from the ground at the same time. They stand several feet higher than you as the carefully watch your movements. Hot saliva oozes from their maws as they look over a three course meal. Even worse, you swear you can spot yet another mound of sand charging at you in the distance. To your surprise one of the wyrms nearby pulls away from you, instead of attacking. It's heading for the other side of the dune where the two girls are running! You could stop it, but that would leave this wyrm entirely to Philia. Otherwise Aloé will have to deal with it and whatever is lurking on the other side of the dune.

At the same time the other nearby wyrm tenses its long body as it gnashes it jaw. It coils tightly then strikes at you mouth wide.

___________________________________________________

Ruby
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 21
MP: 1

One large sand wyrm is retreats from you heading to cut off the two girls running back to town. Yet another attacks you directly.

>Dodge and deal with the wyrm attacking you directly.

>Dodge and attack the wyrm chasing heading toward the other children.

>Write in
>>
>>5019143
>Dodge and attack the wyrm chasing heading toward the other children.
These things still walk, right? Can we cut up the leg since it's very conveniently facing to the side?
>>
>>5019154
They do not walk on legs, but we can certainly cut them up in an equivalent manner to keep them from moving easily.
>>
>>5019143
>>>Dodge and attack the wyrm chasing heading toward the other children.
>>
>>5019143
>>Dodge and attack the wyrm chasing heading toward the other children.
>>
Rolled 1, 1 = 2 (2d10)

>>5019154
>>5019640
>>5019705

Pursuing the rogue wyrm and attacking it with the intent of immobilizing it.

>Ruby to use Heavy Slash on fleeing wyrm.
Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+9+3 = 17
Bleed Chance if Connected: 10%
>>
Rolled 10, 2 = 12 (2d10)

>>5019712
Well, that really didn't work. But critical failures aren't a thing.

Rolling for the nearby sand wyrm's attack (2d10, CR 11)

>Writing outcome
>>
>>5019713
Update in ~20 minutes!
>>
>>5019713

Those kids are going to be useless in a fight, so you have to make sure that no wyrms manage to get around Aloé. Pushing yourself, you kick your feet over and over into the hot sand to reach the retreating creature before it gets too far. The other wyrm is in hot pursuit, but you’ll just have to deal with it once you’ve taken care of the runner. Because of your effort, you manage to reach the tail end of your target, but just as you prepare your next strike to immobilize the beast, the boy trips and loses his footing. The grip that he has on your shirt causes you to twist backward and then fall back on your rear as he rapidly drops.

He barely manages to twist his body to keep from crushing the cat underneath him, and slams onto his injured shoulder. He lets out a desperate cry of pain, as he restrains the cat to the point it’s gnawing at his chest in protest.

Just then, the wyrm that you left behind surges onto you as it detects your vulnerability. You do your best to dodge his bite, but the awkward positioning on the sand affords you little movement. The creature drops down onto you, as you try to twist your leg out of the way. Its maw manages to latch onto your hip and sink its hot and stinking teeth into your flesh.

You scream and curse in pain, but then a heavy arrow sinks directly into the wyrms back. It screeches and writhes high into the air, before heavily hitting the sand again.
>>
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>>5020320

As you rise to your feet, you feel a hot trickle of blood slide down the outside of your leg. You look past the tattered side of your skirt to see four round puncture holes leaking crimson onto your now exposed thigh.

Philia motions her head for you to keep pursuing the rogue wyrm while she turns her attention on the target she just shot. “Pardon my rudeness, but I’m afraid that I will have to intrude on your dance!” She shouts to get the wyrms attention as it bristles wildly in rage.

As much as you hate to leave her behind, you know that the other children are going to be in deep shit if you don’t get over there quickly. Gritting your teeth, you roughly pull the boy to his feet and charge on.

The pain blurs a bit as you get back to running, but you’re not running as fast as you were before. Each breath is heavier than the last, and your mouth is bone dry. The wyrm has already managed to wrap around the dune, and drop out of sight.

You’re on a job, do your job. A good merc sees the job through to the end. Just focus on getting the hell out of this desert!

You follow the trail of disturbed sand the retreating wyrm left behind eventually rounding the dune yourself. Upon rounding the dune, you spot Aloé in a tight spot.

Her shield arm is almost entirely wrapped by the maw of one of the wyrms, with only the magic spikes jutting out from the shield keeping the creature from clamping down completely. Her focus isn't even on that wyrm, as she practically tows the large bastard with heavy steps. Her resolute eyes are on the wyrm that threatens to attack the two girls, as the stand stupidly frozen in fear. She finally pulls close enough to fling her short sword directly into the creature's side. The impact stuns the wyrm for a moment, as it coils madly in the ground out of pain. At the same time, Aloé is wrestled to the ground by the wyrm wrapped around her arm, as she does her best to twist her arm free. You rush ahead to help.

___________________________________________________

Combat status has changed to Elevated Risk. -1 to all character rolls.

Blue "X" indicate creatures that Philia has attacked. The red "X" is the wyrm with the sword lodged within it.

Ruby
HP: 9
LP: 6
Stamina: 17
MP: 1

One wyrm writhes in pain nearby the two girls with Aloé's sword firmly lodged into its side, while the other has its jaws locked around Aloé's shield arm.

>Finish off the wyrm that is near the two other children, then help Aloé.

>Rush to help Aloé fight off the wyrm attacking her first, while you order the boy to retreat with the two other children.

>Write in
>>
>>5020330
>Finish off the wyrm that is near the two other children, then help Aloé.
We might lose an LP or two, huh.
>>
Hey everyone! Hoping to get a to get another vote or two before moving on. I'll give it a couple more hours and see where we are at that time.
>>
>>5020330
>>Finish off the wyrm that is near the two other children, then help Aloé.

It's in a situation like this that I can truly appreciate how much impact Ewelyn had on our strategy. We spread out, and have lost a lot of effectiveness as a result. It's a good example of how much a support can bring to a team. As it stands, we cannot dictate the flow of battle, and our archer is in an overextended position. Our general lack of utility and heals is also not helping with morale.

Let's keep in mind that our goal is to retreat, not win.

I feel sorry for Aloé. She's really getting the worst of it, especially as a tank with no support. When we win, we ought to give her a headpat, and maybe a pastry.
>>
>>5020330
>>Finish off the wyrm that is near the two other children, then help Aloé.
>>
>>5020355
We aren't there yet, so let's hold strong.

>>5021309
That's a great take on missing the party support/veteran. The rest of the team is no stranger to combat, but like you said, without Elewyn there is a noticeable difference. That said, these kinds of desperate situations are great teaching experiences, which I aim to depict storywise and in a quantifiable way as well.

Some brief downtime is definitely in order, provided that we make it through this. I'd really enjoy spoiling the team after all of this.

____________________________________________________________
>>5020355
>>5021309
>>5021474
>>Finish off the wyrm that is near the two other children, then help Aloé.

Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10(-1, for elevated risk) to see if hit connects (CR 4 to finish the injured wyrm)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+9+3 = 17
No need to roll for bleed if connected.
>>
Rolled 7, 4 = 11 (2d10)

>>5021500
Every time...
>>
Rolled 9, 6, 5, 3, 5, 4 = 32 (6d10)

>>5021503
Ruby's hit will connect!

Enemy Rolls:
Rolling 2d10 for the sand wyrm attacks on Aloé (CR 7, first two dice)
and for two attacks on Philia (CR 13, last four dice, two dice per enemy.)

>Writing outcome
>>
>>5021520
Just for clarification:

Attack connects on Aloé. Philia dodges both attacks directed to her.
>>
>>5021520
Update in about 20 minutes
>>
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>>5021520
>>5021520

Immediately, you veer off to finish off the wyrm that was threatening the children. It thrashes its body against the sandy earth in an desperate attempt to dislodge the sword embedded into its side. You easily slip past its wild flailing, and using your running momentum, you slam your greatsword down onto its neck nearly severing it. A great eruption of hot wyrm blood splashes onto the nearby girls, who try their best to hide behind a pack, as the blood soaks all around and into the sand underfoot.

You turn to see the boy with a face of both shock and amazement. "Run back to town, idiot!" You fling him toward the other children, and rush to recover Aloé's sword from the corpse.

With a heavy tug, the sword comes free, as horrid brown and green entrails ooze out into a small puddle. With the children safely running back to town, you dash toward Aloé. That's one less thing to worry about, but now comes the issue of getting you and your companions out of this damned mess.

You watch as she steadily pushes against the wyrms face with her feet in an attempt to free her shield arm. She nearly frees her arm when the wyrm twists and bites anew. Its pointed teeth catch against her forearm, peeling small portions of skin as they go. But finally, she wrests it free, and as her dark blood slowly leaks out, she gives the wyrm a vicious bash with her shield sending it reeling back.

Her undaunted gaze is fixed on the wyrm as you run up and hand her sword off. "The kids are running back to town. Now it's our turn!"

She takes the sword gratefully. "We need to hold off until Philia gets here!" She blocks the wyrms carefully timed strike.

Looking past her you can see yet another pair of these annoying bastards surging to join in. If Philia doesn't come back soon, these things are going to cut you off from her.

In that moment, you spot a small figure sliding down the near side of the dune. Mid slide an azure tinged arrow soars out, and finds its mark in the cheek of one of the two beasts pursuing her.

Gulping for air, Philia dashes to meet you."Shall we?" She quickly looses another arrow the instant Aloé parries a rapid strike from the wyrm.

Thankful that Philia managed to catch up with the two of you so easily, you and your companions retreat, leaving the agitated wyrms behind to feed on their fallen and weakened kin.

It's just now that you realize how low the sun has gotten. In the sky above you, a blanket of dark blue hangs, spotted brilliantly with countless stars. They're a lot easier to see without the tall buildings in the way. They're really pretty... The boss was supposed to tell you something about them called constellations or something like that. He never got around to it. Maybe you'll buy a book about it, whenever you manage to get out of this desert.

~~
>>
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>>5021841

~~

The village's great elder is helped into a seat by the other older townsfolk. It seems that his excitement to come up to you made him quite light headed, and he almost lost his balance.

"Don't mind him, dear. He's getting quite up there in the years. I'm sure that he's mistaking you for someone else." One of the women nods as she helps him settle down. "It's a shame, though. My mother always used to talk about what a great warrior he was. Anyway, I don't know about those slavers. We'd like to help you, but we got our families to think about and all.."

You hardly catch her words as you think on what the old man said. You've come back...When was the last time you happened to be in the Val Aureum desert anyway? Sixty years you passed through here on your way to the southern end of the continent, but...you didn't stop in any towns. Then...about a hundred years ago, perhaps? That time you definitely recall staying in much more humble version of Chebika. But, any human you met from that time would certainly be dead by now.

You step closer to aged man and look upon his features. "How old is he?"

"Oho, we're not quite sure, little Elin. But, he was of our grandparents generation, so likely over a hundred."

"Easily so. I think I recall the celebration for his fiftieth birthday when I was a young lad."

Then, it might be possible. But you think it's more likely this man is simply suffering from a delusion brought on from his twilight years.

"I don't recall having met you, sir." You explain to him with a very gentle tone.

Once the old man regains his composure, he shakily reaches out into the space between you and him. His foggy eyes moist with tears, you can't help but feel pity on him and grab his hands. This seems to settle him, but then he makes another effort to speak.

"The boy you saved. In the fire. That was me, El-Ele-wyn." Each word now seems to strain him terribly.

Boy in the fire...In an instant a memory of house fire in Chebika comes rushing back to you. The pleading screams of a young mother with terrible burns on her arms cradling a wailing baby. Pleading with everyone nearby to save her son still inside. The intense flames closing in on you as you finally found the boy, all of maybe seven years old, screaming voicelessly as the ash had filled his throat. How he clung to you afterward. How he wept when it was time for you to leave. How he made you swear to visit him again.

"Oren?" You speak his name the instant it comes back to you.
>>
>>5021846


The others in the room are instantly hushed.

He nods his head with all the vigor his aged body will allow him. The moistness in his tired old eyes rolls out in weak tears as you hold his hand in between yours. He hangs his head on his walking stick as he cries.

You remember how bright his eyes used to be when they looked at you. He always looked up at you with a dumb grin. You remember loud he was. He constantly followed you around asking question after question, never tiring. You remember how small he was. He always had to run to keep up with you.

You remember that young boy that you left there so long ago.

Ahhh. It's not fair. Why do they all live such short lives? Not just him...

Your grip loosens and his hands drop out of yours. He slowly pulls his head up, and reaches his hands out to meet your face. His fingers unsteady, but with great care trace the outline of your features.

"You haven't changed...one bit." A peaceful smile appears directed to you.

"I-I wish I could say the same for you." You catch his hands as they tire.

"You really...haven't changed." His laugh more of a wheeze than anything. He nods his head resolutely. "The slavers...I will help. How ever you need."

"Don't be ridiculous." One of the elderly women scold him. "You know that you can't take up a weapon against them anymore."

Oren stubbornly shakes his head. "No. Not a fight like that. No. But...she would know how." He turns to the rest of the elders. "Don't care, if you don't want to. I will do it alone...if I have to." He turns back to you. "Please...let me...help you."

You can focus on the other elders later, but he's surely too old for what you plan, right? Your is aim to burn the villa as a decoy. That will pull away a number of the forces that are guarding the slave shipment. While you can appreciate the special kind of irony that would arise from him executing this task, you're worried that he might not be physically capable of it. That said, even at his age, he's not without his dignity. This is his town that he's defending.

>Agree to let him help you with your plan.

>Gently refuse, letting him know that you're sure he's done plenty already.

>Write in
>>
>>5021852
>Let him ask others for help, or tell stories about your time here long ago. His words will do far more than a pair of hands
>>
>>5021852
>>Agree to let him help you with your plan.
>>
>>5021852
>>Agree to let him help you with your plan.
He knows his limits. He's probably got a plan of his own.

While thinking some more about that fight, I've begun to wonder: Is Elin magic locus-only ? Ruby needs her sword, but could she channel fire without it at a certain level ? And more importantly, must that magic set off directly when it leaves the body ?

As an example if it was possible for Ruby to eventually cast a pillar of flame, could she point her sword at the ground and have it appear there or would the fire come from her sword and turn it into an impromptu flamethrower ?
>>
Hey everyone. I'm aiming to have a work free weekend, so more updates will likely result from that. I hope that everyone has a restful weekend ahead of them as well

>>5021906
I'll incorporate this idea into the main plan of:
>>5021968
>>5022070

>>5022070
For that question of magic, any type of magic is difficult to extend beyond yourself at the current time in this setting. Having a medium/locus is a means of extending it further in space, by simply making the evoked mana more stablized. This "physical" property of magic is not exclusive to Elin. That said, those that are more magically gifted (mostly Elin) would know how to efficiently extend the reach of magic beyond a weapon/staff. In a similar vein those that can pull from a sufficiently large pool of mana would be able to extend magic through sheer inefficient mana burning.

So with the training/experience, or with enough mana what the techniques you suggest for Ruby would definitely be possible. There would be gradual steps leading up to a pillar of flame/flamethrower.


>Writing!
>>
Update in about ~30 minutes
>>
>>5022535
You can't be the one to deny him his agency.

If you felt the physical wear of time like the humans do, you would resent the limitations of your own form more than enough to tolerate others holding you back. That said, all Elin must come to terms with their own physical limitations. The inherent presence of magic within them has always been such an easy answer, such that once the question didn’t even exist. Perhaps one day, if you stubbornly persist as you have been, you will come to know debilitation in one way or another. Would you still be able to fight against that cruel reality? Is that where the strand of fate ends for all your kind? Or perhaps those twilight years will never come for you and being cursed to live with your sins for the rest of time is all there left for you.

This isn't about you right now. You keep yourself from slipping too far into the past and clear your thoughts.

"You're just as foolhardy as you were when you were a child you know?" You shake your head and laugh lightly. "Can you still keep up with me?"

His expression lightens as he hears your words. "Oho, I suspect...much like when I was a boy...I will be always behind."

"Your help means very much, regardless." You turn to the other elders. "I understand your reasons for being resistant. Much like I am, you're looking out for your kin and thinking on their best interest." You place Oren's hands down on his lap and walk to the stained window to see that the sun has begun to cross the horizon on yet another day. "The slavers and their guards are well equipped. They are well financed and would be very hard pressed to stop their operation given how profitable it has become. But...I will still fight, and I think you should too."

"Isn't that unwise, little one?" One of the elderly men step forward. "This isn't even your home, and they're so much larger and stronger than you are. I don't mean to be cruel, but they'd cut you down or do worse if they caught you alive. They pose too much of a risk to fight against."

Oren uses his walking stick to rise to his feet. "That is exactly why...we must fight. If not for her taking a risk...I wouldn't be here. If I wasn't here...Solrachnus and her spawn would've overrun the town seventy years ago." He points to the old man that just spoke. "Your grandfather died...fighting that beast. To make sure...that your mother would live. It was much larger and stronger...than any of us, but we killed it." He hobbles over to the grandmother of the boy with the lost cat. "If not for her taking a risk...who would have been there...to save your sister when she fell into that hellish antlion pit? People called it suicide...but she was a little girl…that needed to be saved."

It seems that he's performed numerous great deeds in the time since you last saw him. Even with his aged and battered body, his conviction hearkens back to humans from the Age of Heroes, so long ago...
>>
>>5022570

But, while his spirit may still be strong, his body settles back down into his seat.

You quickly decide to continue his argument. "What might you lose by choosing not to face that risk? Think not of me and my kind, but think on your children, and their children. How would they fare under the continued oppression of the slavers in the years to come?” You rest your hand on the top of your chest. “You dare not speak of their actions, because you find them too horrible to mention. You do your best to forget about them, but they are a reality for my kind! Soon, they will be for you too. I don’t know what forces are driving these slavers to act, but I intend to find out, and I intend to stop them.”

Suddenly, the sounds of screaming children can be heard approaching the town. For the moment, the discussion is put aside as the older humans rush out to investigate the commotion. After you put your beret back on, you help Oren to his feet and then guide him out to the town.

“What’s gotten into you all? Oh my! You’re all covered in bruises and scratches!”

The older folk crowd around the children..

The two girls are inconsolable as their cries keep from any sort of intelligible words from being said, while the young boy collapses to his knees from sheer exhaustion. A very annoyed cat is pressed against his chest, signaling to you that your companions managed to save the pet. You peer off into the distance, and spot three more small figures running back to town.

“We have to go back and help them! The sand wyrms. There’s so many!” Lorin does his best to explain while gulping for air and trying to restrain his pet cat.

“Sand wyrms! Boy, how many times have you been told not to play in those hills?”

“We weren’t playing! I had to save Dusty!” He shouts back defiantly. “They-“

“Oh, enough enough. Someone takes those two girls to their parents-“

“Who’s that?”

Ruby, Aloé, and Philia approach clearly battered and wounded from the ordeal of saving the children. Philia while largely uninjured is uncharacteristically disheveled. Long strands of blood coat the outside of Ruby’s leg as she holds together the tattered remains of her skirt. Her uncovered feet are an awful mess of cuts and bruises and are caked with blood-soaked sand. Aloé clutches her left arm as blood continues to drip from grisly open wounds. They all pause and look at you expectantly.

Your immediate instinct is to go over and begin tending to their wounds. As far as you can tell the humans here are the children and the older folk. That said, forcing the elderly to look upon their grisly wounds may be the final thing needed to convince them for their help. It might pain them to have to deal with those wounds any longer, but would the end result justify it?

>Focus on healing your companions wounds first and foremost.

>Finish your argument by showing how your companions risked their lives to save the children.

>Write in
>>
>>5022582
>>Focus on healing your companions wounds first and foremost.
Meh. I think they'll be convinced by the kids anyway. Best get on with it. The girls need it after that mess.
>>
>>5022582
>Focus on healing your companions wounds first and foremost.
>Praise them while healing them, that'll be enough
>>
>>5022582
>>Focus on healing your companions wounds first and foremost.
>>
>>5022587
>>5022822
>>5022948
Healing and cleaning them up

>Writing
>>
>>5022966
Update in about 20 minutes!
>>
>>5022966

Them returning in such a condition means that they ran into more trouble than you would expect for that part of the desert. Perhaps something has come to agitate those sand wyrms that the boy Lorin mentioned. But to upset an entire nest of such creatures, it would have to be something large enough to prey upon them… Whatever the case, you decide to follow your instinct and see to their wounds first and foremost.

“I’ll need to leave you for a moment to see to my companion’s injuries.” You gently explain to Oren as you lead him back to the entrance of the town center. “Will you be fine on your own for a while?”

His hands unsteadily find the frame of door for support. “Oh, don’t worry about me. In the meantime, I will see if I can’t talk some sense into these young cowards.”

Once satisfied that Oren won’t lose his footing, you hurry back to your companions. A few of the elderly townspeople have departed with the two human girls, but the rest seem to be fussing over the new faces.

“Look at the condition all of you are in. You mustn’t play in those hills no matter what this boy says.”

“How horrible! Kids these days, always looking to play in such dangerous places.”

“For the last time, we weren’t playing!” Lorin shouts back. “They helped me save Dusty. If it weren’t for them, I’d, we, we’d…”

“If it weren’t for them this child and the other two girls would have been eaten by the sand wyrms.” You explain flatly while first observing Ruby’s injured leg. Her expression is horribly annoyed due to the ordeal she just went through and the group of old folks around her. You give her a sympathetic glance, while channeling healing into her open wounds. “I understand, so thank you for saving them.”

Her annoyance transforms into surprise, and then she turns away to hide her expression. “Just patch me up so I can go put something on…”

Once the puncture wounds on her leg finally close switch to Aloé who meekly holds out her arm to you. Her mouth is tight as if she’s intentionally holding it shut. Along with that, she keeps her brow furrowed with gaze fixed ahead of her.

“You did well.” You tell her as you do your direct your soothing healing magic into her arm. The wyrm that injured her scraped off a good amount of flesh, so you exert much more mana to heal her wounds than with Ruby. So much of your focus went into making sure the grievous wounds closed cleanly that you only notice the crowd that formed around the two of you once you’re finished.

“What in the world?”

“You witnessed it right? Her wounds were closing on their own.”

“Have I gone and lost it already?”

You turn from person to person as they all express their awe. Finally, you turn back to Aloé who has her eyes fixed upon you.

“Ah, does it still hurt?” You ask as you see her eyes beginning to well up with tears.

“No…” Her voice wavering with just the one word.
>>
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>>5023805

You have the instinct to dodge but choose to ignore it. She latches onto you with her face buried in your stomach. Her sudden grab causes you to lose balance and fall back on your rear with her landing on top of you. Her wordless sobs soak your shirt hot and damp. For a moment, you’re unsure of how to act, but in her you are reminded of things used to be. Maybe more than once that was you, as you buried your face in Noire’s body. Then, the thing to do next would be…

You pat the top of her dusty blonde hair, taking time to smooth it out and clean off the caked sand. Again, and again your hand passes over her. “You were very brave.”

~

You crowd on the floor in the humble home of Lorin’s grandmother. There are only two chairs to go around, and one is occupied by Aloé as Phillia brushes her hair, while the other has Oren who seems to be quite entertained listening to all the voices around him. He managed to talk a few of the towns elders into assisting you, but most of them quietly departed shortly after your companions returned. Right now, you’re currently busy healing the burns and cuts on the soles of Ruby’s feet. Only a short time remains before you will depart for your mission, and you're allowing your companions a chance to catch their breath.

“Who’s the geezer?” She whispers to you eyeing Oren as she squirms from her feet being handled.

“Someone that I met a very long time ago. Someone that wants to help.” You explain to her trying to wrangle her retreating legs as the flail dangerously close to your face. “Kick me and I’ll make sure you don’t have shoes until you get back to Velika.”

“Hey c’mon! I’m trying here.” She’s lost in thought for a moment. “Philia, where the hell is my pack? My stuff’s in there.” Her voice high with worry.

“Young Lorin volunteered to retrieve from the two girls.” She replies without looking away from Aloé. “They were much too shocked to remember to hand it off, it seems.”

“Wait! Is that the one they were holding when I lopped off that wyrm’s head? Awww, man…Can I get a fffu… a break here?” Ruby sighs and accidentally catches your gaze before turning away.

“This is your break.” You remind her as your remove her feet from your lap.

Lorin’s grandmother enters the small room from the kitchen carrying a tray of various steaming hot food. She places it down in between the four of you along with small towels to wipe your hands.

“Here, little ones. It’s the least I can do.” She places her hands on her hips while looking at Ruby. “Actually, I’m sure that I can find something from my daughter’s old clothes for you to wear, if you’d like.”

“Umm. I got some clothes to change into. I just have to get my bag back. Thanks though…” Ruby awkwardly explains.
>>
>>5023811

“If you insist, dear. But, do try to cover up when Lorin gets back. You know how young boys are…” Her voice trails off as she returns to the kitchen.

“I’ll cover you up with dirt…” Ruby mumbles under her breath. “Elewyn, why are we in this old lady’s house?”

“It will make our mission easier later tonight.” You explain to her quietly while passing her some food. “What? You don’t want to wear a moth-eaten dress?”

She takes the small bowl out of your hands. “An old lady like yourself would like them, wouldn’t you?”

“They're clothes for a child, like yourself. You can show those clothes off to the new friends you made today.” You start filling a small bowl of food for Aloé as well. “Thank you again for saving them and making friends with them.” You grin smugly at her.

Ruby sniffs her food suspiciously. “Ugh, forget it. I’m not going to look back once we’re out of here.”

“Then, let’s hope that everything goes well then. That way, you can get the other half of your pay.” You pass off the bowl you prepared for Aloé and begin another for Philia.

“Yeah, right…” She grimaces at her food, but still eats it. “Ah man, wish I wasn’t starving…”

She would normally make some sort of comment about you not paying her enough.

Once you hand off the final bowl, you settle next to her. “Something on your mind?”

Her eyes betray her skepticism in sharing with you, she munches her dinner thoughtfully. “Meh, just thinking about stuff. You not going to eat?”

“I’m not hungry.” You respond while looking over the various dishes that were laid out for you to eat, when looking at them each dish appears indistinct from the others.

“Huh. They must’ve made you eat this crap when you met with them.” Ruby whispers and struggles to swallow her food. “Ah, I’ve had worse before. I shouldn’t complain." She's quiet for for a short while. "Maybe... I’ll move to a place with really good food after we get back.”
>>
>>5023815

“Thinking about leaving Velika?” You ask her quietly.

She pokes her food idly. “Hmm…Not thinking about leaving it specifically. Just been thinking about heading somewhere new? Dunno.”

“Wanting to get away from the danger?” You study her reactions carefully.

“Nah. Can’t say this whole business with the kidnapping is good news, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I just…I dunno. I just never thought about doing anything else besides working with my merc company, and when all that went away I was just floating around Velika doing odd jobs.” She glances around the room as if searching for someone. “But for some reason, I just can’t ever leave it because it feels like I’m leaving something behind. Like I’m forgetting something. For the life of me, I can’t ever shake that feeling. So I was thinking...maybe I should just leave for somewhere new.” She glances in your direction and suddenly remembers that it's you who she's sharing her feelings with. "Never mind. I was thinking aloud..."

Ahh. The question of what to do with “Ruby” is one that you’ve dealt with for the past ten years. You lost track of her immediately after finding Alys’ dismembered body, but found her again in the care of her mercenary company a few days later. She was in a horrible condition, seemingly due to self-harm, and had lost all of her memories. In the weeks that followed, you did your best to remind her of who she was, but any direct attempts to led to her falling into an extreme psychosis again. You decided it was best to leave her in the care of the mercenary company while keeping an eye on her from a distance. Now that they have disbanded, it's time to decide what to do next.

Keeping her in Velika would allow you to keep an eye on her, and have her potentially help you. If she's ever to face what happened ten years ago, it would have to be there as well. The danger that Elin face is something that needs to be considered as well. But, if she's expressing a desire to leave, perhaps that would be the best way to move on for her?

>Suggest that she stick around Velika with you after the mission is complete.

>Encourage her to pursue a new home once you've returned.

>Write in.
>>
>>5023833
fuuuuuuuuck. That's Rynna. Oh man. I had to go back and look. She saw what happened to Alys.
At this rate, I'm waiting for Phillia's tragic backstory, since this appears to be a constant for Elins.

>Suggest that she stick around Velika with you after the mission is complete.
I'm obviously in favor of keeping her close. I assume Elewin still feels responsible. Lack of mana means complex mind magic is beyond even us at this point. We'd have to be careful if we attempt to bring her back. How did we deal with her psychosis back then ?

Also, much like last thread, I poked and prodded to figure out a plan to get Elewyn something nice, and then this happens.

Also, Aloé deserves many headpats. Good job.
>>
>>5023833
>>Encourage her to pursue a new home once you've returned.
>>
>>5023833
>>Encourage her to pursue a new home once you've returned.
>>
>>5023833
>>Encourage her to pursue a new home once you've returned.
>>
>>5023833
>Encourage her to pursue a new home once you've returned.
That's some serious psychosis.

But by the time this slaver business is done, maybe it WOULD be time to move on. She's made more progress as Ruby than she ever did as Rynna, and training to use her magic will double as the discipline needed to prevent self-harm.
>>
>>5023871
They are indeed one and the same. There's more details to arise from that night from Rynna's perspective, but we'll see if/when they can come up.

Elewyn does feel responsible, but she would have to weigh that against how much help she feels like she can provide her with all the other things that are currently going on. Regarding the episodes of psychosis that Ruby experienced, a Sundowner (stun) was typically used to get her to a more neutral state. From there, several hours were typically needed to get her back to normal.

Hopefully there are more occasions for respite and headpats.

>>5024021
Indeed. As I said above, there's still some details from that night that are potential still to come. But, yeah, there's a reason for how extreme it is.

How Ruby/Rynna will move on from that trauma is something for you guys to decide. The discipline through magic idea is intriguing. Just know that magic has a tendency to be affected by emotion, and vice versa.

>>5023911
>>5023920
>>5023999
>>5024021
Encouraging the idea of leaving Velika.

Ruby will have a permanent +1 to her evasion stat. Increase from 11 -> 12.

>Writing
>>
Hey everyone!

The post for today will likely come much later in the day, just fyi.

As were finally headed into the final part of the mission in this arc, the choices will be have much more immediate impact such as a combat scenario, though you might not necessarily be in combat. I'm excited to see how it goes as I've been wanting to write this content for a while.

>Still writing
>>
Finally home! Update in 20-30 minutes, hopefully.
>>
>>5025353
You don’t know whether being near you in Velika, or in some other town will afford her more security, but it’s not as if she can’t take care of herself. Her mental state has been stable as far as you can tell, and she’s come a long way as Ruby. In fact, she’s far more Ruby to you than she was ever Rynna. Then, perhaps one day she can come to terms with what happened to Alys that night? But if that were to occur, what is there left for Rynna? From what you can tell Rynna only ever knew the world with Alys present within it.

Lasting relationships of any kind with Elin are extremely rare. That isn’t to say that an Elin can’t come to know someone for an extended period of time, but there’s rarely a sense of emotional responsibility that most humans would consider normal. If such a strong relationship does come to pass, then the emotions of the two are sympathetically linked to a degree that they are practically felt as one. Good and bad, they are amplified.

It doesn’t end well.

Ruby witnessing the horrible fate that Alys met would not only cause her to feel the profound agony of violently losing someone you’ve always held dear, but it would also cause her to feel the suffering that Alys experienced while her limbs were severed from her conscious body.

Her psychotic break and resulting amnesia may have been her body doing its best to save her from fully experiencing such an intense grief. Otherwise, who knows what sorts of sins she would carry now. No, it’s better for her to move on…

You peer out the small window and at the dark and distant sky. “Finding a home that suits you better seems like a good course of action. The city isn’t going anywhere you know. It’s been there even before I was born, and will most likely be there after I’m gone.”

Her eyebrows raise in surprise. “That is a long time.”

You close your eyes in thought for a moment. “Anyway...There’s plenty of other places for you to carve out a living. Plenty more of this world to see. Most of all plenty of reasons to get out of Velika. I won’t deny those feeling you have of staying, but you can always come back to visit whenever you see fit. But Ruby, you can leave if that’s what you desire.”

“Hmm.” Ruby responds while still chewing her food. “What do you plan on doing when you get back?”

You turn your gaze to her. “Oh? I didn’t think that you cared what happens after you get paid.”

“Ugh, I just wanted…forget it!” She shoves the last of her food into her mouth. “I’ll do what I want once this is all done.”
>>
>>5025376

The door to the small hovel opens and Lorin appears with Ruby’s blood-stained pack in hand. Instantly Ruby gets up and heads over to him.

“Give me that!” She snatches the pack and rummages through it to find her usual outfit which managed to be saved from soaking any of the wyrms’s blood. “Finally a break.” She slips out of the tatters of her skirt with little regard to the young boy gawking at her exposed legs. Immediately she takes off her blouse without bothering to unbutton it either.

Aloé rushes out of her seat and stands between Lorin and Ruby. “Ruby! You can’t just go changing wherever you want.”

She focuses on slipping on her outfit. “Finally! Oh man, that’s so much better.” She turns to address Aloé “He’s just a little kid anyway, and where else would I change in here? There’s barely enough room to stand.” She shoves the tattered skirt and her blouse into the bag, and cinches it shut.

Lorin is still too shocked to respond to her words. He quietly walks further into the room and then crouches without saying a word, reflecting on what he just saw.

“Alright! I’m ready to get this rescue mission started. You guys done eating or what?” Ruby looks between Aloé and Philia.

Aloé lets out an exasperated sigh and returns to her seat. “I’m ready whenever you all are.”

Philia appears quite entertained at the scene that just took place. “I’ve had plenty of pleasant diversion for tonight. I’m all set here.”

The turn their attention toward you, waiting on your words.
>>
>>5025379

You rise off the ground. “Then its finally time for us to save the rest of our kin.” You look over Ruby who stands distinctly dressed from the rest of you. “I’m sure that you’ve all picked up on this fact, but since we were able to secure some help from the townsfolk, that obviates the need for a cover story. More specifically meaning that we need not detour to the northern cave.”

Your three companions nod in understanding.

You pace while still dictating the plan. “Once again, our mission is to infiltrate the slaver shipment undetected and free the three captured Elin before they’re transported from the dock. From there, we will swim offshore where our vessel will be waiting for us, and sail until we reach the Freeholds. Currently they have no reason to suspect an attack, but given their resources we should suspect the area to be well guarded.

Aloé raises her hand, to which you motion for her to speak. “We will need a signal for the ship to begin its approach, how ah…will we go about that?”

Philia mimics the hand raise and takes the liberty to speak next. “Part of the reason I’m here is for that exact moment. My flame can persist even under the water. An arrow can take flight concealed in the night sky yet still birth a flame visible to only those hovering over its watery womb.” Her eyes glow with azure light for added effect.”

“What?” Ruby interjects.

“Philia will take care of the signal.” You state flatly as Philia’s eyes lose their glow. “Aloé’s astute question aside, it will take less than hour of quiet travel to reach the western shore where the slavers will be docked.” You direct your attention to Oren and the elderly women standing nearby. “At the same time, our allies here will set fire to the villa. We’re aiming to strike the balance between a fire large enough to be visible at the western shore while not completely engulfing the villa immediately.”
>>
>>5025398

“Something to spook them, but not big enough that they think they can’t save it.” The old woman chimes in.

“Precisely.” You nod at her. “You must also be sure that you clear the villa well in advance of their return. But in the time before the ignition please help yourselves to whatever the villa may have to offer." You tell her as she mischievously grins at you.

"But little one, there are likely to be guards in the town brothel. Us old folk might not be able to get down the hill and back to town before they notice the flames." She expresses her worry. "What should we do?"

Hmm, one of the disadvantages to using the elderly as allies in this type of situation is their frail bodies slowing them down. You need to think of a way to get around that fact.

"I can set the fire!" Lorin raises his hand eagerly. "Your friends know that I can run fast, so it won't be a problem for me to get away before anyone notices."

"Do not be ridiculous, Lorin!" His grandmother scolds. "You're staying put tonight, especially after what happened to you earlier today."

"Awww c'mon!" Lorin shoots back. "You said it yourself, you need someone that won't get caught."

They argue back and forth much in the same way before someone finally interjects.

"I will do it." Oren's voice bold despite his age.

"Now you're being ridiculous." The old woman crosses her arms. "You can't think you'd get away in time!"

"It will be...a better cover...if there's someone to blame." He explains calmly. "That way...they won't start trying to force...the towns folk to answer questions."

"They wouldn't want to attract attention to themselves. By harassing the townspeople anymore than they are already they run the risk of catching the eye of those in Velika." You explain to him.

"They could...get away with a lot...before that happens..." Oren remains resolute. "I've lived a long...and good life. Now that I'm this old...I'm the best option..."

>Shut his suggestion down. Have the boy Lorin set the fire.

>Allow him to enact his plan.

>Write in.
>>
>>5025409
We don't have bombs?

Separate Idea: have the elders make a fuss at the brothels. Just enough that the guards need to physically help the workers escort them out. Maybe even include a bribe to get the workers cooperating quick.
>>
>>5025516
Sorry, no bombs with you this time. The other idea is definitely viable
>>
>>5025516
Sure. The other two look too much of a "choose who you want to die" scenario to me. There will be broken eggs, still, I'm under no illusion. But we have a job to do. If they get a cover story together, the two happening could appear unrelated.
>>
>>5025409
>>>Allow him to enact his plan.
>>
Hey everyone, I hope that you're all well and comparatively less swamped with work.

Since I'm only tabulating the votes now, there's not much written for the next update. Additionally, I'm probably going to be stuck here late, meaning I'd have to rush to get something out before the end of today. So, I will use this day as a catch up and post in the morning (US time) tomorrow. Take it easy in the meantime!

>>5025516
>>5026083
Creating a separate distraction at the brothel as a cover.

>Writing
>>
>>5026183
Update in about thirty minutes
>>
>>5026183

You shake your head and walk over to place your hand on his shoulder. “I appreciate the sentiment, Oren, but we haven’t exhausted all our options yet.” You give it a gentle squeeze and return to the center of the room. “That said, you all bring up valid points. We will need someone that can escape from the villa quickly, we will need to keep any potential guards occupied for as long as possible, and we will need a cover story for why the villa erupted in flames.”

Now you stand over Lorin who seems to have trouble looking at you directly. “You said that you can run quickly, and I believe it if you managed to keep up with my companions.”

You hold your hand up to keep his grandmother from interjecting. “However, you are still a child, so if you are going to help your grandmother will accompany you to the villa. She will be there with you, she will tell you what needs to be done there, and you will listen to her every word.”

He’s excited at the prospect of being included in the plan and nods resolutely. His eyes happen to meet yours and he immediately turns his gaze away, only to meet with Ruby’s eyes which cause him to blush fiercely.

You turn to his grandmother. “The only time you will need to leave him alone is for as long as it takes you to get down the hill. He will ignite the flame and then immediately head to meet you at the base of the hill. There’s plenty within the villa to catch a spark. I ask that you leave some of the alcohol and cups in the courtyard, and that you leave the gate unlocked on your way out.”

“Staging an exit for our dearly departed guardsmen under the guise of escaping punishment.” Philia chimes up with a sly grin.

“With plausible deniability thrown into the mix.” You add and continue carefully explaining your plan to the elderly woman. “If asked if you witnessed anything, say that you don’t want any trouble, and that other guards threatened you to keep quiet. The guards that arrive on the scene will assume that some from their cohort are responsible and will likely hide information from the slavers for us under fear of group reprisal.”

You end your walking tour back where you started and stand behind Oren with your hands on his aged shoulders. “To ensure that the timing goes correctly, Oren here will go with another of the village elders and post a watch near the brothel. If there are any signs of a guard departing early, we need you to cause a distraction to buy us as much time as possible.”

“I suppose…I won’t be able to change your mind.” He shakes his head in resignation. “So long as I…can help.”

“Every part of this plan is important.” You lean forward. “Also, not a chance of changing my mind now.” You give him a gentle push as you lean back.
>>
>>5026890

The elderly woman sighs and crosses her arms. “It’s still bizarre to me to be ordered around by someone who looks like they could be my granddaughter, but from what old Oren says, I ought to respect my elders.” After a while she nods. “I will have that damned gaudy monument burned good for you.”

“Perfect.” You pause on each of the faces hanging on your next word and think on what note to depart on. “You’re all young in my eyes, so show me what you’re capable of, and try to keep up.”

Your three companions and Lorin all simultaneously cheer while the elderly woman simply shakes her head and smiles. They all file out of the entrance while you help Oren to his feet.

He chuckles lightly. “Being with your friends…has lightened your mood.” He stabilizes himself on his walking stick. “You were much more…direct when we first met. Still kind…but with an edge.” He stops suddenly and looks upon you with his hazy eyes. “I wish we had the time to speak, Elewyn.”

“I’m glad we had this day to speak, Oren.” You do your best to reassure him.

“As am I…I’m afraid that my days…are numbered. My wife and children have passed away…My grandchildren are…living their own lives. I enjoy the memories…of them. My youth. Of you… It’s what kept me going…Seeing you here today…reminded me. I’ve been ready…for a long time.” He takes your hand as you walk him to the door. “You know…exactly how I feel…don’t you?”

You inhale and exhale deeply. “Yes, Oren… I know.”

“Then…may I ask. What keeps you here?” He closes his eyes in anticipation to an answer he has been waiting for a long time.

Considering your history with him, the fact that he’s still willing to help you despite his age, and being morbidly aware that he won’t be able to hold onto this fact for very long…You don’t feel the urge to lie to him.

“Regret.”

~
>>
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>>5026892

Monotonous shuffling sounds through the soft sand are the only noise that you and your companions share. You lead the group using rocky crags to guide your heading. Philia follows in the rear ensuring your footprints are gently erased.

Tonight, only the slightest sliver of one of the moons is shining, giving only the faintest blue-gray glow to light your path. Even as sparsely lit as Tulufan is at night, it was only after departing the town for several minutes that you could even begin to appreciate this pale illumination. You sense tension behind you as you march westward, any slip ups in your companion’s gait seems to cause them a slight jolt of panic. Every step brings you ever closer to your goal, and you can only hope that your companions are ready for what’s to come.

Eventually, the path you beat leads you to a drop in the terrain. As you stop and peer through the darkness you can detect that a wide ditch lies in front of you, but it levels out toward the opposite side allowing continued transport. You signal the plan to slide into the terrain to your companions, and then lead the way softly gliding down and then ending in a light trot to slow your momentum. While keeping an ear out for your companions, you scan your new surroundings and immediately spot irregularities in the sand’s surface. For a moment you consider whether they simply could be rocks until you kneel to find a human female’s pelvis. Then a fractured jawbone. Then the bony remnants of an arm. The more you dig through the sand the more that you find.

There’s not just one body here, but several. Probably even dozens.

Moving to quell any panic, you busy your companions by having them fan out and take to investigating this bizarre graveyard.

Gauging from the size and structure of the bones you surmise that mostly humans are buried here, but there are the remains of a few Amani and Castanic littered here. Even more peculiar is that no matter how many bones you sort through, there are no traces of any complete skulls or bones that would be in the torso.
>>
>>5026896
They've been chopping limbs....for easier transport.
>>
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>>5026896
The limbs and other extremities seem to have been processed separately from the vital components. All are devoid of any sort of trauma suggesting a methodological removal. Furthermore, there’s no sign of rotting organs or dried blood, so this is simply where they were dumped.

A shriek from Aloé startles you and you immediately rise. She’s fidgeting intensely trying to reach her back which from the looks of it has some sort of intruder. Just as you are about to help her, she removes the offending object from inside her blouse.

In her hands lies a mouse-like creature. Only this one is a bit larger, and its dark grey fur is considerably more voluminous and soft. It gazes upon all four of you with its dark and big eyes and seems…largely unfazed. It nuzzles itself into Aloé’s hands, ready to nap in her warm grasp.

“A desert chinchilla.” Philia whispers to you three and places a hand on Aloé’s shoulder. “He likes you.”

“Well, that’s nice for him, but we can’t sit around petting him.” Ruby stares at the creature suspiciously.

Aloé turns to you with wide eyes, to which you have to deny and motion for her to place the creature back on the ground where it belongs.

To her credit, she obeys, and gently scoops the creature back onto the ground. It's not even a second before the critter scrambles up her leg again and nests again in her shirt. She removes it yet again places it on the ground, only to have the entire scene repeat. This time she stares at you with wide pleading eyes.

"Would it be so bad to keep him?" Aloé asks you while even the chinchilla looks upon you with wide eyes.

You don't think that she would allow this creature to affect the mission, but you have to ask yourself, is it wise to remove him from where he belongs? Despite all the care that Aloé would assuredly give him, would he be better off living in this desert where he belongs? In spite of what he may want, in spite of what she may want, what is best for this little one?

>Allow her to keep the chinchilla.

>Gently explain that he belongs in the desert.

>Write in.
>>
>>5026905
A furry desert creature? I'm guessing it sleeps underground and pops up at night. That's all well and good now, but if it stays there during the day it's going to get hella sweaty and gross.

>Allow her to keep it for the mission
>Let her consider the practical keeping of the critter before making the final decision.
>>
>>5026912
A good compromise.
>>5026183
Big week on my end too. I'm not as active as I could be. A shame.
>>
>>5026912
Good point It is interesting how convergent life is for small mammals in the desert. Burrowing and being nocturnal is almost universal.

>>5026983
No problem at all. We'll hang in there!

Letting her keep it for the time being.
>Writing
>>
Update in about ~30 minutes
>>
>>5027850

You sigh and relent. “You may keep him for now, but before we leave this desert consider if you’re ready for the responsibility of caring for such a creature.”

Aloé nods earnestly. She takes the chinchilla and slips it back into her blouse where she first found it. After which she tucks in her shirt into her skirt to ensure the critter doesn’t drop out during travel.

“You two take care of each other.” Philia pokes through the blouse to pet the creature.

You glance around once more at the cluster of bones lying at your group’s feet. For a moment, you considered trying to numerate the number of bodies that could be lying here, but in the pale moonlight the bones blur together like ocean waves rolling over one another. Even without that number, you surmise that the conspicuous absence of any torsos or skulls is a sign that the owners of the bones were kept alive after their amputations. Perhaps for easier transport, or perhaps something more.

The image of Alys’ dismembered body comes back from unfortunate memory. There are compelling parallels to be drawn from here to that memory, but the key components are differing enough to suggest an alternative motivation.

Her head was never found...

Enough of this. It’s time for you for to get moving again.

Just before you do, a discarded human femur catches your eye due to heavy indents on its surface. You retrieve it from the sand and quickly inspect it. Running your fingers over the grooves you instantly recognize them as bite marks. Notably different from the bite marks you found on your companions after their run in with the sand wyrms. It's more...mammalian The width that the creature’s maw clamped down on this bone almost runs the entire length. Something quite large was permitted to gnaw on this removed bone. Both your sets ears strain to scan the silence, and currently find nothing.

You place the bone back on the ground and head off once again into the cool darkness of the expansive desert.

~
>>
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>>5027890

The closer you get to the sea, the more the terrain transforms from shifting sands that afford difficult purchase to dried hard earth that allows for quicker travel. This also does away with the need to erase your footprints. However, with the terrain leveling out there is much less geography to hide behind. Distant torches of the docks come into view after crossing a tall dune. Before that stands a makeshift watchtower constructed seemingly recently from scrap lumber and thatch. From this distance you spot two guards idly pacing at the summit, to which only a thin wooden ladder allows access.

On a cool quiet night like this, the guards are likely to carry out their tasks with a level of indolence. But the vantage point the watchtower provides could prove to be troublesome if a guard happens to gaze in the right direction.

You conceal yourselves by a small outcrop of rocks.

“We’ll need to deal with the guards in the watchtower.” You say in a whisper that’s only audible to their animal ears.

“Sounds like fun.” Ruby grins while tapping her greatsword. “They won’t know what hit em.”

“Have you dealt with targets stealthily before?” You glance around the rock at the two guards lazing patrol. “Taking them out is one thing, but if they manage to sound an alarm before you do, then everything will be much more difficult.”

“No…” Ruby admits. “But, I’m sure it can’t be too hard to do. Just kill one while the other isn’t looking and then finish the other off, right?”

You sigh. “Essentially, but planning and practice are two completely different things.”

You turn to Aloé who shakes her head sadly. “I’ve never been trained to deal with a target like that. Ah!” She’s quick to follow up. “But, I can imagine what needs to be done. If you need me then I’ll do it.” She finishes with a resolute nod of her head.

“I will admit that I’m ill suited for such a close-range task.” Philia glances at the tower as well. “However, if you permit me to halve the current distance, I’m confident that I would be able to introduce them my arrows.”

“After introducing them to your arrows, how might they drop?” You press. “It’s a long way down, meaning a lot of noise if they hit the ground.”

“That’s for them to decide.” Philia smiles at you.

You shake your head as you evaluate your current options. You're no stranger to such stealthy take downs, but you would typically have a partner to do the actual
killing while you provided support. It then occurs to you that going as a pair could be a better option, but then you have to consider who would be best suited for this task as a duo. If you were to go along then you would have to keep your mana usage in mind. Alternatively, you can chance sneaking by the tower altogether...

>Take out the guards. [Assign one or two party members to execute the task.]

>Do your best to sneak past the tower.

>Write in.
>>
>>5027900
The problem with falling is that they'll see the arrows. But what if they just fall to a torrent of wind?

We can move the bodies and mess around the ground to make it look more like an accidental fall. It'll be figured out, but maybe not during the night, and it'll at least take long enough to sneak in themselves.
>>
>>5027912

Arrows in the body would indeed be a factor for concern, but a body dropping from a height makes a considerably loud thud. Armor would only amplify this in a quiet cool and dry night. One noise could be missed or excused but two of such noises would draw attention. Please keep in mind timing of the drop relative to where you are, whichever method you might end up choosing.
>>
We are currently waiting on more votes. I'm headed to bed because I'm beat from the day, so I'll see where to vote stands in the morning.

Night!
>>
>>5027900
Finally done with this week. Let's see.
Phillia getting at least one with her bow makes sense. For the second one, it depends on how confident Ruby is that she could sneak onto the platform and slit a grown man's throat. Aloé is not built for stealth, and may not be cold enough to pull off something like that. Leaving them here is too much of a security risk, so this'll have to do.

So Phillia on overwatch while Ruby sneaks up. Phillia wait for them to separate and drops the first. Ruby rushes the second one and hopefully kills him discreetly. If this fail, Phillia get rid of him.
Plenty of room for this to go wrong, but I'm otherwise out of ideas, unless we can figure out a way to get them down from the tower.
>>
Hey everyone, happy Friday.

I'm going to leave the vote open for 2 more hours. From that time, I'll synthesize what we have so far for the sake of getting the story rolling for the weekend.

Be back soon
>>
Rolled 5, 3 = 8 (2d10)

>>5027912
>>5028597
Philia and Ruby to sneakily take out the guards on the tower. In the case of attracting attention, Elewyn to reduce suspicion with Stellar Gale.

Rolling 2d10 for Ruby's sneak attack. (DC 10)
>>
>>5028738
Ruby's sneak attack not successful. Philia to take out the second guard.

Elewyn to cast Stellar Gale to mitigate suspicion. (MP Cost: 2)
MP = 28

>Writing outcome
>>
Hi everyone, I hope that your weekends are going well, and that you have the chance to relax and spend it as you like.

Some stuff came up suddenly last night, so I didn't get home until later. But, I'm mostly through an update now. Thank you for your patience.

Update in about 20-30 minutes.
>>
>>5028741

The prospect of both guards dropping out of the tower if Philia were to take care of it alone is something that you’d rather avoid. However, having her initiate the ambush from a distance would facilitate the take down for whoever else goes with her…Between the two you reason that Ruby would be the better option for the sneak attack. Aloé said herself that she isn’t trained for stealth combat, nor does she have the demeanor for such a ruthless attack.

You point to Philia and then to Ruby. “First kill from a distance when Ruby is in position. Ruby, don't hesitate and strike as soon as the first guard is downed. Do your best to make sure that yours doesn’t drop from the tower after you take him out.”

She confidently places her arm on her bicep. “Leave it to me. I’ll have him hacked up before he knows what hit him.”

Philia flashes you a smile and a glow of her azure eyes. “It will be my pleasure. A distant waylay, and a brief ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’”

“Whatever you say…” You watch as they head off in a crouched run, then turn to Aloé. “Keep an eye out on the docks in the meantime. I’ll be watching them in case anything goes wrong.”

Aloé gives you an enthusiastic salute before clambering onto the nearby rocks for a better vantage point.

You keep a vigilant watch on the two languid guards in their perch. They’ve occasionally stopped their patrol to chat with one another. When pacing, they do a poor job of covering the whole tower so there should be an opening that Philia and Ruby can use to their advantage.

However, just in case…

~
>>
>>5029783

~

It feels good to run when it’s cool out, not having to bother with burning sand getting in your way. Philia is keeping up pretty well, so you better not let her show you up. Damn, thinking on it she can shoot a bow. You don’t know why you know, but you know it isn’t easy to shoot one well. You can’t really go wild with one, iand it takes way to much patience so you’ll stick to good ol’ Carver.

Once you’re about halfway, Philia breaks off and then slides behind a small shrub. You slow your approach once you get closer to the watch tower and wait for the right time to close the distance. Once the patrol begins to walk toward the opposite side, you close the distance as quickly and as quietly as you can.

Hell yeah, you’re good.

While you softly catch your breath, you take a quick glance behind you. Based off the complete emptiness of the dry land behind you, you’d swear that you came out here alone. But you know for a fact that they’re watching you right now. Geez, they’re good at hiding.

Looking up, you can’t see much other than the wooden structural beams and the wide platform that they support. It’s a decent climb, so you better get moving.

You tightly grip Carver in your left hand, and the thick wooden rung in the other. The size of the rung is definitely too large to grip comfortably, and not to mention that the wood is not smooth at all. Whatever. You start the climb. The wood creaks slightly as soon you place your feet on the bottom of the ladder.

One…Two and three. Each rung you climb you try to count out your moves as you grip and then plant your feet. The wood is rubbing off fine splinters into your hand that you can only hope that none get too far embedded. After twenty-five rungs you’re about halfway up and take a glance down. Well, fall now and you’d at least break a leg. So don’t fall.

A few more rungs and your hand starts getting tired, but you’re sure as hell not going to let go. While you wrap your left arm around the ladder for stability, you shake out the fatigue in your right hand.

Looking off in the distance, you spot where the land hits the sea. Dark water crashes into the rocky shoreline kicking up foam and mist. The sounds don’t carry all the way to you, but your mind fills in the blanks. You’ve seen the western sea before a few years back, but it was a calm blue with its waves lazily rolling out onto the coast. These waves are different now. Not violent, but when you’re looking toward the horizon of the sea it leaves you with the image of a dark and unrelenting…force.

It’s not the sea that you thought you knew, but somehow, you knew what it was capable of all along.
>>
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>>5029785

The ocean also crashes into the docks. Which are little more than long row of poorly lit wooden arms reaching out into that dark water. There’s only a few torches lighting the humble path to the anchored ships. Small figures of what you figure to be guards or shiphands hurriedly alternate between the ships and several makeshift buildings and tents. It’s all very businesslike and shady down there.

Anyway, you can feel Elewyn’s eyes burning a hole in your back so you keep climbing. Finally, you near the top, and remain a few rungs down to stay in the shadows.

“Did I tell you about that?”

“Yeah, you already did. You said that he got chewed out for sleeping on the patrol.”

“Oh. Couldn’t remember if it was you I told or not...”

The wood of the platform creaks as the guards shift their weight. Looking very carefully at ground level you can make out Philia crawling on her stomach to get into position. You’ll have to be ready to strike whenever she makes a move to drop one of the guards.

The dull chat between the guards continues like that for a while longer before the finally pace away from each other.

You steady your breath as Philia stops crawling and pushes onto her feet. That’s your signal to push yourself up the last few rungs, and finally peek on the other side of the platform. One guard is just a few feet ahead of the ladder, with his back toward you, while the other is slowly wrapping around the perimeter.

Philia better know to take out the one walking. Hmm, should you signal her? Maybe a hand wave, but you don't have a free hand. Also you’d have to climb down a few feet. You try to keep your eyes on both just in case…

Where did the walker go?

As you hurriedly search the platform, you realize that she already took out the guard when the sound of a hard impact comes from beneath you. Crap, you better get up there!

You rush to push yourself onto the platform and make eye contact with the guard the second he turns to investigate the noise. Both of you draw your weapons.

He shouts with sword pointed at you. “Who the hell are you?!” In a panic, he glances around you. “Where did-“
>>
>>5029791

You’re startled first by a fine mist of blood then by the sudden sight of the arrow. It had entered from his neck exiting toward the back of his skull. Blood and brain matter drip from his head as he processes what exactly happened. With vacant eyes, his hand reaches jerkily for his neck as he stumbles.

His words don't form at first as he gurgles and chokes on his own blood. “Help…” He desperately reaches out to you as his weight shifts, suddenly causing him to plummet to the ground again.

It’s only then that you realize your slip up. His body slams to the ground with an echoing thud.

Crap, Crap!

You pull away from the edge and rummage through your bag for the tattered skirt. Immediately you slide back down the ladder using the skirt to protect your hands. Toward the harbor you sense commotion as nearby guards heard the loud sounds from the watchtower.

You hardly have time to process that a howling gust rushes over head and toward the sea. The tower sways as you catch Elewyn stunningly arcing through the air. Her clothes and hair rippling as she maneuvers is a sight that only you get to appreciate from your privileged angle. Once her momentum ends, she falls quickly and in exact way as when you met her yesterday, breaks her fall with a properly timed gust of wind. You can’t help but think the whole scene to be beautiful, but you hardly have the time to appreciate it as more voices come from the harborside.

“Shit! They must’ve got pushed by the wind!”

“C’mon, they might not be dead!”

You focus on sliding back down the ladder.

~

Coming down still isn’t a problem, but propelling yourself up into the air like that is much more difficult than it once was. You turn your attention toward more pressing concerns.

Philia swiftly sneaks back to the rocks where you first devised the plan. She luckily had the presence of mind to remove any arrows from the corpses. Given the amount of viscera and pulpy blood staining the sand, they would need to take the bodies back to the light to know their true fate. They’re likely not to bother if the timing of the villa fire works out.

The trouble is that Ruby will be in a difficult position with more guards coming to investigate. At this point, she wouldn’t be able to take the same path back without being noticed by the approaching guards. Aloé is signaling three of them are approaching, and from the sounds of things, they have yet to raise any alarms.

So now you have to decide whether you take your group and deal with the new approaching guards, or whether you trust that Ruby won’t get spotted and then regroup out of the sight of the small unit heading your way.

>Take out the guards to ensure that Ruby doesn't get spotted.

>Everyone sneak away as the guards are busy dealing with the corpses.

>Write in.
>>
>>5029807
>>Take out the guards to ensure that Ruby doesn't get spotted.
>>
>>5029807
Do we know what kind of alarm system the guards have ? Magic ? Portable or static horns ?
>>
>>5030151
Based on the guards that were in the watch tower, you can safely assume that these rank and file guards won't have anything magical. Also, they wouldn't currently be equipped with warning horns, but they could shout and/or run back to try to gain attention.
>>
>>5029807
>Everyone sneak away as the guards are busy dealing with the corpses.
>>
>>5029807
>>Take out the guards to ensure that Ruby doesn't get spotted.
I just realized the newcomers will check the tower guards to see if they're dead. The tower guards that have arrows sticking out of them. Yeah, that could be an issue. We sneak away, but they would still raise the alarm.

Ambush time. Phillia takes the one in charge, and Aloé bodyblocks the other two, while Elewyn buffs. Other plans welcome.
>>
>>5030679
The arrows were removed
>>
Hey everyone! Leaving the vote open for another hour before tallying.
>>
>>5030137
>>5030679
Going ahead and ambushing the guards. First round guaranteed hits, so no need for rolls.

>Writing
>>
>>5030826
The chance of them spotting Ruby and sounding an alarm is not something you’d risk so far into the mission. They need to be taken out now.

You signal your intent to Aloé and Philia who immediately move away from the rocky outcrop and take a wide approach to eventually ambush the approaching guards.

Ruby lands at the base of the tower, and glances around for your directions. Once you’re in position, you pulse the faintest amount of light you can muster, and she gets the signal that you intend to ambush the approaching guards. She drops back to a meager ridge and does her best to conceal herself behind it. It certainly wouldn’t hide much if someone were intent on searching there.

If she happens to get spotted, you will have to do your all to ensure the guards don’t sound an alarm. The villa has yet to been ignited, so having all the guards present around the ships and on high alert will sabotage your mission…

You sigh to yourself and control your growing concern. Letting such thoughts grow here would do nothing but make things worse. You focus instead on the approaching guards.

“You think they’d care enough to build a damn railing for us.”

“Care? They wouldn’t pay us if they thought they could get away with it.”

“Shut up, you two. We have to check if they’re still kicking or not.”

The trio of guards cautiously approach the collapsed corpses of their fallen companions. A solid kick to one of the corpse’s feet elicits a sickening squelch. Two of them lean over to investigate more closely.

“Ahhh, he’s fucked. His brains are all over the place.”

“This one too. He’s more gelatin than man now.”

The other guard groans. “They’re not going to be happy about this, and someone is going to have to clean all this up.”

“Aww nah. Let the ones taking over their shift have the privilege.”

“Yeah, let’s just say we didn’t hear or see nothing. What are they gonna do about it?”

“Listen, you lazy fucks. I ain’t chancing getting canned because you sloths can be bothered. Drag em’ back or I’ll make you.”

They reluctantly obey and begin roughly tugging the corpses away from where they landed.

Now.
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>>5030947

You give a sharp signal with your arm and swiftly push yourself out of cover with your companions following your lead.

Once near, they hear your rushing footsteps, but it’s too late. You invoke your protecting aura as your companions brutalize the guards in their ambush.

Philia strikes first, nailing the lead guard in the flank with a swift shot, causing him to angrily howl in pain. Aloé knocks one of the subordinate guards to the ground with a running bash of her shield.

He slides and tumbles in the bloody trail of sand. The third guard barely has the chance to react before Ruby viciously slashes him across the back of his unarmored ribs gnawing off pieces of his skin with her greatsword.

The lead guard hurriedly assesses the attack around him and barks orders. “Fall back! We don’t know how many of the little cunts are out there!”

He’s clearly got battle experience similar to Sario, he carefully eyes your movements while his subordinates struggle to regain their composure.

Their aim now is to retreat and call for help. They won’t bother with fighting unless absolutely necessary meaning that you will need to do more in order to stop them. Blood, mana, or luck you’re going to need to give up something to ensure that you stop them. Allowing them to call for help will jeopardize the rescue mission.

__________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Ruby and Elewyn's actions.

Write ins for general commands for Aloé and Philia are permitted.

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 25

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 3

The ambushed guards aim to fall back to the docks and call for help. Their actions will be focused on that aim.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>[Optional] Write in general commands for Aloé and Philia
>>
>>5030955
Good stuff. We aren't outnumbered for once. Let's have Aloé and Ruby tangle up their respective guards. I guess we could chance a Gnaw with Ruby ? It might help if the guy tries to run.
As for the leader, let's wait for Aloé to nail him again with an arrow. Since we have a passive aura, I guess I'm okay with Wind Galeing him away from his goal.

I guess this is where my earlier questions come back in. I assume they want to retreat to the right. Would it be possible for Elewynto summon the Gale from a point to his right, in order to push him left ? Would it cost more mana.

Alternatively, have I misread the ability and can it curve around when cast from the staff ? Or it more of a Force Push ?
>>
>>5031017
I should've clarified that they are going from right to left in their retreat. A wind vector from Elewyn down and to the right would work in impeding the lead guard's progress.

The originating point of the Gale has to be from the staff. But I like the idea of curving the wind and it seems within the realm of possibilities. However, it would have to be a smooth curve, rather than an angle of any sort. I would increase the MP cost of that variation to 3 (adding a note in the character sheet for future reference)
>>
>>5031031
Noted. In that case, it's still advantageous to just Gale him back into the rocks once Phillia has taken her shot.
>>
>>5030955
I'm in agreement. Gnaw to bleed one out, then each keeps their respective guard pinned.

I'm thinking about having Elewyn get close up to grab a leg and point the staff to the ground, but continuous wind might just call reinforcements anyway.
>>
Rolled 2, 7, 2, 10 = 21 (4d10)

>>5031017
>>5031175
Nice! Very creative and thought out write ins.

Aloé keeping her respective guard pinned and Philia to pursue the leader with additional arrow shots after the Gale attempt.

Now for our fully controlled characters:

Elewyn to cast Stellar Gale on the lead guard to impede movement.
MP Cost 2 (Straight Vector)
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8, first two dice)

Ruby to use Gnaw to cause bleed on her respective guard.
Stamina Cost 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 7, last two dice)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 4 (1d4)

>>5031263
Both actions connect!

Now rolling for Ruby's 75% bleed chance. (1d4, 4 = no bleed)
>>
Rolled 2, 10 = 12 (2d10)

>>5031265
Damn, no bleed.

Rolling for one guard's action.

Rolling 2d10 for attack on Aloé (CR 7)

>Writing outcome
>>
Heyo, everyone. Sorry for the delays, but I am chipping away at the next update in breathers at work. I'm aiming to have it up in an hour to 90 min!
>>
>>5031739

Regardless of what it takes, you know that you have to strike hard and fast.

Before the leader of the trio has the chance to utter another command, you aim your staff directly at his torso. A violent torrent of wind suddenly blasts him off his feet and heaves his helpless body into a nearby rock crag. He slams back into the hard stone, the impact snapping the arrow that was embedded in his side. The crash knocks the wind out of him, and clearly does some damage to his body as well. The counterbalance gust kicks up dust behind you whilst strongly rippling your clothes.

Everyone immediately reacts following your sudden spell.

Philia eyes flash with azure light as she discharges a difficult distant shot in the dark, just barely catching the lead guard in the shoulder with another arrow.

Ruby gleefully chases after her fleeing target with her greatsword held outward in both hands in hopes of stopping his escape. She eventually catches to him and jabs him with the wicked teeth of her sword. However, part of the sword catches on his armor, and it fails to penetrate as deeply as you know it could. The escaping guard falters from his injuries but continues to desperately flee in hopes of calling reinforcements.

Aloé slashes at the downed guard near her and manages to wound his hip. He retaliates by sweeping her legs and knocking her on her rear. She quickly pivots to turn her back away from the guard in order to better protect the small creature hiding in her shirt. The guards follows with a hard kick to her small stomach, to which she retaliates with a brutal shield blow to his exposed shin, smashing into bone. Blood leaks from her mouth and she ardently bashes her target’s leg again causing him to wail in anger and pain. Another blow to her stomach is his revenge.
>>
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>>5031817

The leader staggers to his feet. He wearily leans forward on his knees like an injured predatory bird as he pivots his furious gaze between Philia, you, and Ruby. He’s carefully devising his next move.

You eye him and his subordinates back with a smirk on your face. It’s been too long since you’ve had the chance to use your Gale in such an aggressive manner. You quickly glance into the direction of Tulufan and see that the fire has not yet begun, however, given the amount time that has passed you sense that it's not far off.

So far, only one of the guards have made any progress in escaping. Ruby’s greatsword has found its mark two times in his flesh, and his movement shows that fact. The situation with Aloé is markedly different. The brawl that is she is involved in shows no signs of ending any time soon, with both combatants brutalizing each other’s body.

Of course, this whole fight is close enough to the docks that if it goes on for any longer, the sound will begin to have the chance of attracting attention.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 23

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 19
MP: 3

The guards conditions are all varied. The one chased by Ruby is heavily injured, while the leader has taken two arrows and was slammed into the hard rocks. While weary, he seems to be plotting something. The final guard violently tussles with Aloé, with end not soon to come. From here the longer the fight goes on, the higher the chance of being noticed.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>[Optional] Write in general commands for Aloé and Philia
>>
>>5031819
I think he'll do something with the wind, so better to just keep everyone topped up. Maybe Ruby can do her thing to distract the leader?

>Elewyn heal
>Ruby Caustic Flame on her target, aim to demoralize the others
>>
Morning all! We're still waiting on more votes to keep on rolling.
>>
>>5032064
support
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>>5031819
Finally back ! Let's get to work.
Aloé is currently on the ground. A good casting of Gale ought to get the guard off her and give her some breathing room. I'm worried he might end up toppling the tower.

Phillia should target Ruby's guard. At that distance, the hit is all but guaranteed. If that kills him, great ! Ruby can then turn and rush the leader before he pulls something out of his sleeve. If the arrow doesn't kill, then have Ruby finish him off while keeping ready to intercept the leader.
>>
Rolled 3 (1d3)

>>5032064
>>5032526
>>5032567
Pulling from what's been suggested here to synthesize.

Philia to take down fleeing target. Ruby to rush the leader and use her greatsword with Caustic Flame in an attempt to down him. Elewyn to heal Aloé, who will continue attacking her target.

Therefore:

Elewyn to cast Healing Light on Aloé
MP Cost 6 (Rolling 1d3 for healing range, 3 = greatest heal of +5HP)

Ruby to use slash with Caustic Flame on the lead guard
MP Cost: 2
Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8, next post)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7+4=16
>>
Rolled 9, 3 = 12 (2d10)

>>5032690
With that Aloé is healed +5 HP. After several heals Elewyn now has a sense of Aloé's HP from before and after the heal.

HP 11 ->15 (max HP)

Rolling 2d10 (CR 8) for Ruby's hit and writing the outcome
>>
Rolled 2, 9 = 11 (2d10)

>>5032693

Forgot about the guard on Aloé!

Rolling 2d10 for attack on Aloé (CR 7)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5032696
Not wasting any time, you signal for Philia to change her target to the fleeing guard while deftly rushing to Aloé’s aid. Philia promptly shifts her aim and looses another arrow in one continuous movement. Her arrow doesn’t travel far before finding itself piercing through the eardrum of her target, and driving deeply into brain matter shredding it into pulp as it carves forward. The guard makes all of another step before dropping dead in his tracks.

Ruby pivots her momentum from the dead guard to their leader. She aims a brutal thrust directly at his chest. But in that moment he rolls out of the way and moves to counter. Ruby preserves all of her momentum and twists her hips in a heavy slash. As her greatsword travels its arc, caustic orange and black flames suddenly ignite along its length. The guard is stunned by the sudden violent heat, and then...leaves this world in two pieces. Her fuming sword chomps its way through the thin plate protecting his neck, and in an instant severs head from body now and forever. She terminates her arc with her greatsword scraping against the earth, extinguishing the flames in a thick plume of black smoke.

The smell of charred flesh wafts through the air as you find Aloé and the guard still struggling to best one another. She ripostes a jab of his sword, and counters with a hard kick to the side of his head, followed by a downward slash at his newly exposed side. Her short sword finds its mark, opening the dark red insides to the cool desert air. She follows the lead of her slash and leg by flipping into the beginning of a handspring. The guards thrust meets in the inside of her shoulder for a moment before she stands. A thick pool of crimson soaks into the sleeve of her blouse.

You push ahead to stand by Aloé’s side as you as your gently place your hand on her shoulder. A warm aura pulses over her wound as you fix your gaze directly upon the guard. He freezes like a startled animal, locked in your eyes. But as he senses your other allies approaching, he suddenly finds the will to speak.
>>
>>5032847

“Wait wait wait!” He drops his sword to his side and holds up his hands to you. “I yield!”

You take another step forward and firmly place your foot on his sword and stand over him. Your companions draw closer.

“Cmon, wait I said!” He pleads. “I didn’t want to do this, it’s just my job.” His hands come close together. “Please!...Wait! I know. There-There’s a stash of gems in the camp. I-I’ll let you know where it is, if you just let me live! I don’t care what you do, just let me live!” He drops his head to your free foot in a panicked sob.

This fight is over for him now that he’s dropped his weapon. Now there only remains the choice of what to do with this last guard. Even if his words were true, there’s precious little time before the villa ignites. But, in the long term having the funds to finance your side fight will be important. That said, whether you do let him spill his guts, will you spill his guts after that? You can already imagine that your companions will feel differently about killing a yielding combatant, but the mission cannot be jeopardized…

________________________________________________________

The total duration of the fight has proceeded long enough to have a slight chance of having attracted attention. This will be reflected in a dice roll after choices have been decided upon. (2d10, DC 5, i.e. 5 or greater means that you've gone unnoticed)

Choose one:

>Agree to the guards proposition and listen to where the gems are located.

>Deny the proposition.

>Write in

Choose one:

>Give him a quick and quiet death.

>Let him live and set him loose in the opposite direction of the docks.

>Write in
>>
>>5032860
>>Deny the proposition.
>>Give him a quick and quiet death.
>>
>>5032860
>>Agree to the guards proposition and listen to where the gems are located.
>Let him live and set him loose in the opposite direction of the docks.
Can't risk morale loss on Aloé. Also, money.
>>
>>5033071
This
Also do we have any way of marking his body? If magic is rare these days then we could put on a light shoe mark him and tell him that we can now end his life with a word if he does anything
>>
Heyo everyone, happy Wednesday. Been thrown some curveballs at work, but I'll still be posting at approximately the same pace because it really is relaxing to be able to write this story. It helps a lot to get through these tough spots.

>>5033071
>>5033244

Agreeing to the proposition, and letting him live. Whether you take the time to look into the gems will come up as a choice later. Also, making an effort to deceive him with magic to keep his silence.

>Writing!
>>
Rolled 3, 10 = 13 (2d10)

>>5033458
Started drafting the first few sentences and realized that I forgot to roll for whether you've been noticed fighting or not...I apologize.

(2d10, DC 5, i.e. 5 or greater means that you've gone unnoticed)
>>
Finally made it back home! Update in 45ish minutes.
>>
The image prep for this update was more extensive than I had anticipated, so I will be taking another 20 minutes. Thank you for your patience!
>>
>>5033820

You’ll let him live, but if the mission can’t be risked, then you’ll need to take extra assurances to keep his silence.

You abruptly kick him off your foot, causing him to splay out supine with his hands helplessly up in the air. You then roughly place your foot on his chest and point your staff directly at his forehead.

You dig your heel in as you speak. “I’m sure you’re aware of the strange ones that you deal with across the sea.” Hearkening back to what Sario mentioned the night before, you illuminate the tip of your staff. “Whatever unnatural things you may have heard about them…they’re all true. I know because I can do far worse. You head in any direction other than away from here, I’ll know. Understand what I’m telling you?”

He nods slowly.

“If you do, then you will meet a worse fate than the other four lying over there. Understand?” You punctuate your last word by digging your heel into him even more.

He nods quickly now.

You look off toward the docks and then back to him. “Then tell me about those gems. Also...if those in the camp wanted to head to Tulufan, which way would they take?”

“T-they’d take a path that runs a short way north of here.” He answers diligently. “The gems are in a small storehouse near the ships docked to the southern end of camp. It’s the smallest building there, I swear they’re there.”

“Good.” You tap your staff to his forehead, and then cut off the illumination. “Then, I won’t make you hide your friends. Run along now, and don’t come back.”

You step off him, and after a few moments he stands slowly, then bolts in the direction away from the camp.

You turn to all three of your companions staring at you intently.

Ruby jumps when you turn your gaze in her direction, and then quickly crosses her arms. “Letting him go is too much of a risk. I’d at least cut out his tongue.”

“That would be an excruciating and slow experience. Much better to do it quickly if at all.” Philia nods to herself, and then turns to Ruby. “But his fate is not ours to decide for this mission.”

“He gave up fighting, and we agreed to his deal.” Aloé shoots back fervently. “Elewyn made it so he wouldn’t talk, so killing him would just be pointlessly cruel.”

You shrug. “You give me too much credit for only a bluff, but soon enough it won’t matter if he comes back. We only need to be wary of him coming back until then.”

“Then, shall we continue?” Philia suggests.

As you nod in agreement, a light in your periphery catches you attention. You hurriedly turn to the east.
>>
>>5033837

Even from this distance, you can see the outline of the villa illuminated in the fire that torches one side of its structure. It’s a stark beacon in the dark empty desert that the guards will surely see.

“Let’s hurry.” You state as you lead your companions to the edge of the docks.

~

The four of your cautiously crawl in the dark boundaries of the slaver’s camp. The cool ground crunches quietly under your light bodies. Based on the voices, there are easily a dozen guards from where you are now, to the ships. Your furtive march forward is contrasted with their noisy panic. You're so low to the ground that your not fully sure of your exact direction.

“What’s going on over there?”

“It’s on fucking fire, you dolt!”

“Shit…I bet you it was Sario.”

“Shut it!”

“Yes, do be quiet.” A peculiarly calm but authoritative voice cuts through the din. “The partners and I will not be pleased if one of leisure homes is consumed in those flames because of one of your cohort…You. Gather your men and ride to rally with the guards stationed in town. Find who’s responsible for-”

“AHHH! The villa!” An extremely loud and frantic voice is added to the fray. “What are you all standing around for?! Do something!”

“I had just finished giving them orders.” The calm voice replies. “If all you have to contribute is useless screams head back to the tent.”

The especially panicked voice replies. “You know how expensive it was to build! Think about how much fucking silver went into-“

“Go. Now.” The calm voice orders everyone in the vicinity. “The rest of you back to your posts…”
>>
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>>5033852

The guards immediately snap into movement at the orders of what you assume is one of the slavers. After some time, you can barely make out some of his quiet murmurs to the owner of the panicked voice. "We have our special guest here, so you can't go losing your head. What will he think of us if..."

The four of you tensely wait for the commotion of heavy hooves and armor to fade off into the distance before closing the final distance to the camp. You painstakingly raise your body by barely inching up every few seconds until you can assess the current status of the camp.

What you see before you is a handful of patrolling guards spread among the camp, with an unknown number of others within the tents. It seems that your long crawl has led you to the edge of the northeastern side of camp which is well covered with tents and flora. You quickly eye the three docked ships, where you suspect the captured Elin will be kept. From where you are, you can't spot any indication of which may hold them. so you might have to search each individually. On the southern end of camp you notice the storage shed that the guard claimed contained the gems. But between here and there is a guard gazing off to the east that will spot you without some sort of distraction.

You pause for a moment to think on what you should prioritize your next actions to be. As escape might be necessary at any moment, splitting off into groups is not an option at this point.

_______________________________________________________________________

You are not currently in combat. The orange circles on the map indicate sources of light, the green circle indicate the storage shed, while the red arrows indicate which directions the guards are facing. Any distractions and/or sneaking past guards will require a dice roll.

>Head toward northernmost ship, prioritize looking searching for the slaves.

>Head to the southern side of camp, prioritize heading for the gems. [Write an action to distract the guard facing east.]

>Write in
>>
>>5033854
>Head toward northernmost ship, prioritize looking searching for the slaves.
I'd rather steal and sell the ships themselves
>>
>>5033854
>>Head toward northernmost ship, prioritize looking searching for the slaves.
The gems are a distraction.
>>
>>5033854
>>Head toward northernmost ship, prioritize looking searching for the slaves.
>>
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>>5033854
Excuse the crappy phone edit I made on the way home. Wish I could have posted this morning, but bad weather put a damper on my schedule.

Since I'm essentially proposing we go for the gems first, I don't think this'll win, but I want to point out what I think is the most effective route, regardless of destination. If we head straight for the top left ship, we would have to squeeze past those two campfire guards, right ? Also, are the tents the blue circles ?
Red is my proposed route, yellow is me asking how far that guy can see. Also, what's Elewyn's mana at again ?
Shame stupor is a light spell, but I suppose the other version would have made this a bit easy. Does Phillia get sneak attack bonuses, by any chance ?
>>
Hey everyone! Thank you for your votes so far

>>5034284
The weather is turning for the worse over here too. I wonder how many more warm days there are left.

This is a very thorough plan! Though, I'll be honest and say that I don't know how much I will be incorporate with the the plan to head northwest. I'll spend some time thinking about it, since you did too.

But to answer your questions. If you head straight for the top left ship, you will need to find a way past the two guards to the north. Tents are indeed blue circles. Given the lights, assume that the guard will be able to see the edge of the camp, but maybe not make out exact details.

I have decided to round Elewyn's mana up to 20 MP, since there's been a little bit of time since the battle and she has plenty of experience with extensively using mana in battle. .

Everyone gets major sneak attack bonuses, provided that the target is taken completely unaware.

However, everyone please be aware that the map is not static.
I'll leave the vote open for a while longer since I wouldn't be able to write much given how busy I am at work today. But if any of you have questions, I will be around to answer those, hopefully promptly.
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I'll also take the opportunity to ask if any other anons would like to try and get rid of the guard right below us before moving to the ships.
It's risky, but it should be out of view of the other, leaving Ruby and Phillia to take him on with bonuses.
I have a more, specific plan in mind, but i want to see if there would be any support for such a risky play.
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>>5033870
>>5034161
>>5034281
Heading northwest first. This is currently a very low risk action, so no dice roll is necessary at the moment.

Still, keep on your toes everyone, I don't plan on making this whole thing a walk in the park!

>Writing
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>>5034284
I leaned against sweeping from below because of that guy in the middle. His vision cone is too good unless we can take out some lights.
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Finally back home, and been chipping away at the update throughout the day, so hopefully I can get it up for you in about 20-30 minutes!
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>>5034551

There too much open space to risk heading to the south of the camp. Taking the northern route will allow you to stay in good cover of the flora at least most of the way to the northern ship.

You dip back down onto your stomach and listen intently for any movement in the nearby tents. Satisfied that the inhabitants are stationary for the time being you quietly signal to your companions the next direction.

As you reach the base of the plants, the soil underneath becomes much more damp and loose. Your arms slowly sink into the dark brown earth as you painstakingly advance one short length at a time. In the near complete darkness, your ears become your only means of sensing movement from the main part of camp.

A sudden noise from inside the nearby large tent stops you.

“…n-nothing that our men can’t control! Here let’s settle back here and enjoy our drinks.” The panicked voice from before, with concern still in his voice, nears the back of the tent.

The number of footsteps you detect from inside suggest three individuals walking toward the back area of the tent. Luckily, the only entrance is on the opposite side of where you and your companions are located.

Although the sounds of your crawls are essentially undetectable, you still carefully time your movement to their voices.

“The villa is of little concern to our current dealings…” The authoritative voice from before retorts without any hesitation. “Which we will get to in due time…please sit. If there’s anything we could bring you to dine on, it would be our pleasure.”

“That won’t be necessary. The drink alone will suffice.”

The voice is starkly different from any you’ve heard in quite some time. You can tell it belongs to a male, but it has a serene and almost whimsical tone to it. Despite its gentle nature, it comes from a place of deep pride…

Somehow it compels you to pick up the pace as much as you’d dare. This is not one of the slavers…

“Putting aside the whatever issues you may have at your…villa, as you call it, I’m quite pleased with what you brought us this time.” The serene voice continues at an unhurried pace. “Do not worry, despite my zealous interest in the blindfolded one, we will still honor our deal for all three of them.”

He’s discussing the captured Elin in some capacity.

Insects indifferently crawl along your exposed skin as you advance. A jolt behind you stops you, and you slowly turn around. Directly behind you, Ruby shudders as she slowly moves to pull a long many-legged insect off her face. Once finished, she shakes her head in annoyance and notices your glance in embarrassment.

“We are very glad! Very glad!” The panicked voice jovially answers. “Not that w-we would force you to pay for all of them. It was just, uh, we uh. we were worried that you took some issue with the quality of our stock since…….uh, since you came all the way out here, that is!”
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>>5034767

A slight laugh. “We can make progress well enough, if not even more so, as long as the special ones are tuned properly.” The serene voice continues more coldly. “They’ve truly been instrumental for our cause…” He finishes a more sinister laugh.

The other two laugh far more uncomfortably.

“That is…good to hear. Shall we discuss the return to capture for the other species?” The authoritative voice suggests.

“Yes, yes. Despite our affection for your fawns, there are sadly too few in this world to not supplement our cause with…”

The voice fades as you move out of the vicinity of the tent. Your resolve grows as you think on the suffering that the three Elin must have endured until tonight.

After a few more minutes of cautious crawling, you clear the thick plants and reemerge nearby the northern ship. Once assured that the nearby tents are empty, you conceal yourself behind a tent to eavesdrop on the two guards that are close together.

“Goddamn it. You think it’s too late to get a round in with one of the slaves?”

“Told ya, you should’ve done it earlier tonight when I went. Now that most everyone’s gone, you can’t just slip away.”

“Ahh, you know I like them after everyone has had a round with them. Makes it nice, hot, and gooey inside.”

“You’re fucking disgusting.”

“Don’t knock it until you try it. It’s makes them just lying there less boring. Except for the blindfolded one, fiesty but she’s always taken.”

“She’s the favorite, but you still won’t catch me acting like an animal like you.”

“Like I said…wait hold gotta piss again.”

“Ugh, maybe if you cleaned your dick after getting sloppy twelfths, you wouldn’t have to piss every five minutes.”

The two guards separate, as one moves to the edge of the dock to urinate. You scout the area nearby the ships, as you motion for Ruby to do the same with the other edge of camp. After the two of you take in each side of the camp, she signals what she saw.

From what you gather the sentry guards are monitoring different areas of the camp from before. Furthermore, a new guard has appeared heading toward the southernmost ship. But, for the most part you only need worry about the two guards posted near the northern ship. However, if you decide to take them out, you will have to be careful not to alert any guards nearby with loud noises.

_______________________________________________________________________

You are not currently in combat. The new blue circle indicate empty tents, while the yellow circle indicates a potentially occupied tent. Any distractions and/or sneaking past guards will require a dice roll. Any sneak attacks on guards will also be subject to a dice roll.

>Stealthily take out the two guards closest to the northern ship. [Write in details required.]

>Attempt to sneak past the guards to the northern ship once an opportunity presents itself.

>Write in
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>>5034774
>Position everyone except Philia at position 1
>Throw an insect at the guard in position 5. No need to get the face, just enough to keep him nervous in front of the guests
>Melee kill the first guard, and dump him into the waters away from the light.
>Search the 2 ships. If there are any slaves, bring them to the middle ship(position 3)

>Shoot to topple the light in position 2, then have Philia make her way to position 3
>If the 2nd guard is isolated, kill him. If not, have Elewyn sneak past in the fuss to the last ship(position 4)
>After confirming all slaves, unmoor BOTH ships

How we bust out will then depend a lot on where all the slaves are. Elewyn practically has a jetpack with a full stack of MP, which we can use to take one or two ships at speed
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>>5034774
>>Stealthily take out the two guards closest to the northern ship. [Write in details required.]
After that post, I am even more confident in my desire to thin their numbers.

So, we're getting rid of Tent Guard and Dock Guard. Main problems:
1.We're a bit small to effectively silence and over them.
2.Noise
3. Bodies lying about.

Tent should go first. I'm tempted to use the Phillia/ Ruby combo. It isn't like we have other options, really. I've made my argument on that.
I'm thinking Phillia switches place with Evelyn and lines up a shot on his neck, while Ruby creeps closer. It should pierce his neck, and he can't make much noise choking on blood. Ruby then moves in and cushions his fall, with maybe an application of Carver to his neck if he squirms (or kidney if he's still standing.) Next step is to hide him in one of the empty tent. The one Ruby's hiding behind is the closest, but then entrance looks to be facing the inside of the camp, meaning we'll have to drag the body to one of the upper tents. Evelyn could also assist with carrying the body, since we don't want the armor clattering on the ground.

As for Dock, much the same. I figured we could lower the body in the water, since it's night and the torches will just reflect on the surface, but Ii'm worried about the other guard on the dock to the south. If Dock comes back to the tents, we can still try and get him like Tent if he turns his back to us. Alternatively, if he get weirded out at his buddy not being there, we can have a small Gale ruffle the bushes a bit further to trick him and lure him in between the tent where we can nail him.

We can't touch the torches, that would make it more suspicious than the guards not being there, in my mind.


A lot of parameters, but good fun overall. If anyone has improvements/suggestions/rebuttals , don't hesitate.
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